Posted on 10/12/2007

October 12, 2007–WASHINGTON DC–Fifteen members of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition, a coalition of more than 30 member organizations, gathered October 10th on Capitol Hill to promote legislation that aims to reduce death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). They met with the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Caucus and their staff, to advocate for their sponsorship of proposed legislation that would provide for greater public awareness, research and access to life-saving treatments for SCA.

The SCA Coalition bill aims to:

  1. Improve SCA related research by:
    • Having the Institute of Medicine prepare a report that identifies early warning signs; recommends tests for those at risk; and recommends a research roadmap to understand causes, cures and treatments of SCA;
    • Expanding NIH activities to research the cause, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, intervention and treatment of SCA­—specifically this research could look at imaging modalities, genetic markers and biomarkers as cost-effective prediction and prevention tools; and initiate pilot projects to develop protocols for diagnosing or ruling out genetic conditions in children and adults;
    • Identifying the prevalence of SCA in the US through AHRQ resources, and segmenting those results by race, ethnic, gender and age;
    • Establishing a national registry through the CDC for the documentation and study of SCA among those under 21;
  2. Establish public awareness efforts to improve public knowledge of at-risk populations, treatments and prevention efforts by:

    • Establishing and implementing a coordinated national outreach and awareness campaign to arm the public with information about SCA in youth and adults, who is most at risk, and treatment options;
    • Enhance the CDC’s Heart & Stroke Prevention program to add a focus on SCA, with risk factors and better define the affected population;
    • Direct the CDC to develop and implement specific warning signs documents and materials so relevant populations will be better informed;
  3. Identify Medicare beneficiaries who may be at greater risk for SCA, by:

    • Implementing a SCA risk assessment quiz as part of the “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam;
  1. Strengthen the “chain of survival” among the general population, by:
    • Encouraging HHS to educate at-risk populations about the efficacy and benefits of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs);
    • Directing the HHS Secretary to work with other agencies to ensure that transportation policies reflect the true needs of the emergency care community;
    • Encouraging the Department of Education to conduct an analysis and report on current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AED programs in schools.

5) Provide ongoing reports to Congress to ensure efficacy of programs put into place.

Capps Urges Congress to Honor Families Affected by SCA

While SCA Coalition advocates were in Washington, Congresswoman Lois Capps of California, a nurse whose husband died from SCA, delivered a speech to the House of Representatives calling for a focused effort to fight sudden cardiac arrest. The text of her speech follows.

“Madam Speaker, I rise today on behalf of myself and Representative Chip Pickering to call attention to one of our Nation's leading causes of death—sudden cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, far too little is known and even less is being done to address the prevalence of this serious condition. Sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of more than 250,000 Americans every year.

“Sudden Cardiac Arrest occurs abruptly and without warning, when the heart suddenly stops beating and cannot pump blood to the rest of the body. Contrary to widespread belief, sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. As the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition has noted, if your heart were a house, cardiac arrest would be a problem with the electricity, while a heart attack is a problem with the plumbing.

“Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at anytime without warning. Unfortunately, even when there may be warning signs, we may not recognize their presence due to a lack of knowledge about what actually occurs during cardiac arrest.

“Such was the case for a young man from Southern California named Sebastian Hitzig. At age 24, Sebastian stepped on a toothpick, resulting in a staph infection that led to an inflammation of his heart. Several months after doctors believed he had recovered, Sebastian went to the gym for his regular workout, during which he suffered sudden cardiac arrest and nearly died. Thanks to a quick acting response team that shocked his heart back to its normal rhythm, Sebastian was literally brought back to life.

“Sebastian is one of the few lucky ones to live through a deadly sudden cardiac arrest event. We in Washington have made great strides fighting some of our Nation's deadliest killers. Our next step should be to commit to more research into the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of sudden cardiac arrest, including increased awareness efforts to improve public knowledge of at-risk populations. We also must take steps to improve access to Automated External Defibrillators, AEDs, and implantable cardioverter defibrillators, ICD, to strengthen the ‘chain of survival.’

“I ask all Members today to join us in calling for a focused effort to fight sudden cardiac arrest and to do so in honor of the countless individuals who survived sudden cardiac arrest and in memory of the more than 250,000 families each year whose loved ones are not as lucky as young Sebastian.”

The SCA Coalition is comprised of more than 30 organizations passionate about preventing Sudden Cardiac Arrest deaths through legislative initiatives that lead to greater public awareness, research and access to life-saving therapies. The SCA Coalition is focused on national issues that have the opportunity to bring about meaningful change that will save lives. For information, see