Public Awareness Research

Public Awareness Research

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Is Not on Consumers' Radar, According to Research from the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation Presented at the AHA Resuscitation Science Symposium

More than 350,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest each year in the U.S., but the life-threatening condition is not on consumers’ radar, according to a study by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, in collaboration with StrataVerve, presented at the American Heart Association Resuscitation Science Symposium. Researchers found there is an urgent need to improve the public’s understanding of sudden cardiac arrest and the fact that immediate CPR and use of defibrillators can restore life.

More than 350,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest [1] each year in the U.S. [2], but the life-threatening condition is not on consumers’ radar, according to a study by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, in collaboration with StrataVerve, presented at the American Heart Association Resuscitation Science Symposium. The innovative research may be the first of its kind since it applied consumer product research thinking to determine where sudden cardiac arrest fits in the hierarchy of healthcare concerns among the general public.

Fielded in November 2015, the research consisted of online interviews of a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. respondents, plus a benchmark sample of 200 respondents from King County, Washington, an area recognized for its high cardiac arrest survival rates. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted among tourists in Orlando, Florida.

Although sudden cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. [3], researchers found that cancer, diabetes and heart disease are the top three healthcare concerns among consumers. Few respondents mentioned heart attack as a concern and no one mentioned cardiac arrest.

Study findings also suggest there is considerable confusion about the difference between heart attacks and cardiac arrest, which may be contributing to consumer apathy. There was even confusion among those who have taken a CPR course as to when to use it and why.

When survey participants were introduced to a consumer-friendly definition of cardiac arrest and the importance of bystander intervention, interest in learning CPR and how to use automated external defibrillators increased dramatically. What motivated respondents most was the fact that sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time, and the fact that CPR can double or triple survival rates.

“Our research indicates there is an urgent need to create a uniform definition of sudden cardiac arrest in consumer-friendly language and to use it consistently across organizations, the medical community, and the media,” said Mary Newman, MS, of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. “An integrated marketing, communications and outreach plan at a national level is of utmost importance if we are to increase survival from sudden cardiac arrest.”

Jennifer Chap of StrataVerve has a personal connection to the cause. She helped save her husband Rick's life when he collapsed at their home in 2012. Alerted by their cat Buddy that something was wrong, she found Rick, called 911, and, with dispatcher assistance, provided CPR until EMS arrived. “When Rick arrested, I too was unaware of sudden cardiac arrest in seemingly healthy people," she said. “So, I was driven to apply my research expertise to learn how many others like me would be unaware, and what will motivate a person to be prepared to save a life.”

Read abstract in Circulation here.

[1] Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a condition that occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating. As a result, blood is no longer pumped to the brain and other parts of the body and the person suddenly passes out and appears lifeless. Some victims also experience abnormal gasping and seizures. Death follows within minutes if the person does not receive immediate CPR and treatment with a defibrillator.

[2] Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2016 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association. Mozaffarian D, et al. Circulation. 2016;133. Originally published December 16, 2015.

[3] IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2015. Strategies to improve cardiac arrest survival: A time to act. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

About the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation
The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation is a national community benefit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and saving lives. Programs include the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Network, an online community that provides peer support and opportunities for survivors and family members to participate in awareness, advocacy, and research initiatives. 

About StrataVerve
StrataVerve is a strategic marketing and research firm with expertise in consumer insights, product development and brand strategy across multiple categories. The StrataVerve difference is an integrated, analytic decision-driven approach that turns research findings into consumer action. 


The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation gratefully acknowledges StrataVerve for conducting this research on a pro-bono basis, and acknowledges its partners for their contributions including: Survey Sampling International for their generous discount on the national online sample; Strategic Artifex for their preferred rates for qualitative recruiting and interview facilities; and Dan Beckmann for his non-profit rate to video one-on-one videos and his volunteer work in editing the clips.

In-Depth Interviews

As part of this study, in-depth interviews were conducted in Orlando, FL among 10 respondents ages 19-63, from six states. These inteviews provide some glimpses into public awareness about sudden cardiac arrest.

AHA Resuscitation Science Symposium Abstract

Title: Baseline Consumer Study of Public Awareness About Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Authors: Mary M. Newman, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, Pittsburgh, PA; Jennifer Chap, StrataVerve, Orlando, FL; Kelly N. Sawyer, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Royal Oak, MI; Youssou Ba, Karen Ba, StrataVerve, Minneapolis, MN; Rick Chap, StrataVerve, Orlando, FL

Introduction: Survival from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) depends largely on bystander intervention with CPR and automated external defibrillators (AEDs). While several public awareness studies have been conducted, none have examined awareness of SCA relative to other health conditions. A research approach using open-ended responses (unaided awareness) to investigate where SCA fits on the consumer hierarchy of healthcare concerns is needed and may generate deeper insights into public perceptions and knowledge gaps.

Hypothesis: We hypothesized that gaps in public awareness/ understanding of SCA, CPR and AEDs contribute to consumer apathy.

Methods: In November 2015, we conducted a quantitative online study of a national representative sample of 999 US respondents, a benchmark sample of 202 respondents from King County (KC), WA, and one-on-one 20-minute interviews with 10 respondents from 6 states in Orlando, FL.

Results: On an unaided basis, consumers’ top health concerns were cancer (47%), heart disease (46%) and diabetes (34%). No respondents specifically mentioned SCA; only 5% mentioned heart attack. Familiarity with SCA ranked 10th out of 13 health conditions shown to respondents. When exposed to a definition of SCA, interest in learning CPR increased from 61 to 80% and interest in learning how to use an AED increased from 33 to 54%. Among 11 statements tested, top motivators to learn CPR/AED were: SCA can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime—including a loved one (55%), immediate CPR can double or triple survival (52%), and availability of convenient and free CPR/ AED training options (49%). Barriers to action include concern about hurting the victim (42%), lack of confidence/ competence (40%), liability concerns (34%), and belief someone else would be more competent (34%). More than one-third of respondents reported having taken a CPR course. More respondents in the KC sample reported having taken an AED course, compared with the national sample. (17.8 v. 11.8%, p < .05)

Conclusions: Results suggest that SCA is not on consumers’ radar. When SCA is clearly defined, respondents report they are motivated to learn CPR and how to use an AED. Creating a uniform definition of SCA, written in consumer-friendly language, is recommended.

Public Awareness Research Phase Two

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Mission & Vision

The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

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