In the United States, cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death, with an out-of hospital survival rate of 11 percent. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2017 campaign, CPR in Schools, aimed to help increase peoples’ survival rate.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can double or triple a person’s chance of survival when performed immediately, so the American Heart Association (AHA) set a goal to teach CPR to as many Americans as possible.
To achieve this, AHA launched a nationwide advocacy effort aimed at educating and training high school students in CPR, prior to graduation. AHA targeted students because of their ability to achieve proficient levels of CPR skills in an hour or less, through a video and hands-on training program.
In 2015, AHA began legislative planning with its state committees and advocacy team. They identified states in which to secure the passage of legislation mandating CPR training as a condition of graduation.
By 2016, the advocacy team selected 18 states, the District of Columbia and counties in Florida and Nevada as targets. The legislative goal was to secure the passage of legislation in six states, including at least one major state.
On the communications side, the AHA wanted to influence legislative passage through the demonstration of widespread public support. To achieve this, the CPR in Schools campaign was designed to communicate five messages:
- The American Heart Association is creating a generation of lifesavers by making sure students learn CPR before they graduate.
- Teaching students CPR could save thousands of lives by filling our community with lifesavers.
- If you suffer cardiac arrest, your best chance at survival is receiving bystander CPR until EMTs arrive. Teaching students CPR would put thousands of qualified lifesavers on our streets every year.
- Today’s students will become tomorrow’s lifesavers. Everyone benefits from having more lifesavers in our community.
- Many people are alive today because individuals trained in CPR—including youth and adults—stepped in and gave CPR until EMTs arrived.
Although each of the targeted states implemented its own plan, the universal campaign included several elements: government relations, third-party outreach, digital outreach and media relations.
Government relations support was implemented through the use of state-specific fact sheets, one pagers, testimonials and cost analysis, designed by AHA’s advocacy team. Additionally, letters and legislative presentations were drafted, along with the support for lobby days at state capitals.
Through third-party outreach, the advocacy team contacted potential allies including doctors, first responders and parent-teacher associations, along with public health departments. CPR survivor stories were located in each state and used for legislative testimony and media interviews.
Social media and websites became the primary focus for the campaign’s digital outreach. A “You’re the Cure” 300,000 citizen lobbyist network was created online along with a national and 50 state versions of “The Pulse” blog. The campaign used Twitter, Facebook and text messages to recruit, activate and communicate with supporters.
Through its media relations efforts, the advocacy team developed op-eds, letters to the editor and leveraged advocacy messages to promote AHA events for each state. On a national level, it implemented similar tools with the “Be CPR Smart Tool Kit.”
Ultimately, the campaign surpassed its legislative goal by achieving the passage of CPR in schools legislation in ten states and the District of Columbia. Out of the ten, three were considered major states. Several large counties in Nevada and Florida also mandated the teaching.
The communications goal was achieved by obtaining widespread public support through a variety of ways. The campaign partnered with over 100 organizations, including the American Red Cross. Hundreds of volunteers participated in the campaign’s 11 lobby advocacy days. An additional 10,000 new supporters were enrolled in the “You are the Cure” network. The campaign secured 100 percent positive coverage upon passage of legislation and more than 226 million impressions.
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