BOSTON – This afternoon Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) hosted the American Heart/American Stroke Association’s (AHA) “Heart on the Hill” day at the Massachusetts State House. The event brought heart survivors and their family members, medical professionals and advocates to Beacon Hill to spread the lifesaving message about the importance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training, access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and pulse oximetry (pulse ox) screening for newborns.
Downing, who is the lead sponsor of An Act relative to newborn pulse oximetry screenings for congenital heart defects (S. 1008), a bill which requires all Massachusetts newborns to be tested for congenital heart defect through pulse ox screening at hospitals and birth centers, spoke in favor of his bill during the event.
Other speakers included Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg (D- Amherst), House of Representatives Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia A. Haddad (D- Somerset), Dr. Elliott Antman (Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research, Harvard Medical School), Dr. Darshak Sanghavi (Chief, Division of Pediatric Cardiology, UMass Memorial Medical Center) and Dr. Britt Percy (Chief of Hospital Medicine at Noble Hospital).
The AHA reports that congenital heart disease affects approximately 8 of every 1,000 live births annually. They are the most common birth defects in the United States and the leading killer of infants with birth defects. Pulse ox, a non-invasive screening test, can identify infants with a congenital heart defect and newborns at risk for heart defects and potentially save their lives.
Nearly 383,000 people have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year, and only 11% survive, most likely because they don’t receive timely CPR. Given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates. During their visit to the State House today, survivors and advocates asked legislators to support Downing’s pulse ox bill as well as other proposals requiring instruction in CPR and AED use as a high school graduation requirement.
Downing is also the author of legislation, An Act relative to cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification for athletic coaches (S. 231) which requires all athletic coaches in Massachusetts to be certified in CPR.
The American Heart/Stroke Association is the largest voluntary health organization in the world, working to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.