Heart to Heart

An Interview with NTU's Female-centric CPR & AED Awareness Team

In today’s world, lifesaving skills are one of those topics that are talked about but hardly discussed. I am slightly embarrassed by the fact that my only knowledge of lifesaving was through watching The Office (cue Michael Scott singing Bee Gees' “Stayin' Alive”) or dramas -- when a guy saves the damsel in distress through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, giving rise to some sort of romantic tension. Pretty shallow, I know! If you can relate to this, and know little about important CPR+AED skills, fret not, because you belong to the majority of females here in Singapore.

According to Heart to Heart– a group of four NTU WKWSCI students, male undergraduates were more likely to be trained than female undergraduates, with the majority of females either afraid or lacking the confidence to perform bystander support should the need arise. 

Being Singapore’s first female-centric CPR+AED communications campaign, Heart to Heart is certainly changing the discourse of a skill that has been so male-dominated. Today, we decide to speak to them to learn more about this campaign, and what women can do in order to be more equipped with vital lifesaving skills. 

Heart to HeartHello! We are so excited to have you guys. Can you tell us a bit about the team members behind Heart to Heart? Why did you embark on this project?

Hello and thank you for having us! We’re Heart to Heart and we are a team of four final-year students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. Heart to Heart is a health communications campaign targeting female undergraduates to learn CPR+AED skills, and it is also our final year project. We have Grace - our strategy lead, Hazell - our creative lead, Jeremy - our research lead, and Kimberly - our media and partnerships lead. 

We decided to embark on this project in August last year when we realised that two out of the three ladies in our team were totally untrained in lifesaving skills. It dawned on us that in Singapore, many women like us lack these important skills. With approximately 2,400 cases of cardiac arrest happening each year in Singapore, we felt that something had to be done to enable more people to step up in times of emergency. 

This project targets young women in particular to learn CPR+AED skills, and we think it’s cool! Indeed, it seems like women are less likely to possess CPR+AED skills than men. Why do you think that there is a lack of female youths learning how to perform CPR+AED skills?

Thank you! You’re right - in our 2020 NTU survey of 266 respondents (149 females, 117 males), we found that males are 76.5% more likely to be trained in CPR skills than females. This is mainly due to the fact that most males here go through 2 years of National Service (NS) where they get trained in basic lifesaving and first aid skills. On the other hand, most girls like us don’t go through any compulsory training for such skills in school, unless they were part of a uniformed group Co-Curricular Activity (CCA). 

Why is this project special to you?

Cardiac arrest is really common - about seven cardiac arrest cases happen each day, and it does not discriminate. Our project focuses on saving these lives and dispelling the fear to step up as first responders during cardiac emergencies. We strongly believe that the empowerment of CPR+AED trained individuals, especially female youth, can benefit the Singaporean community at large. 

From our conversations with friends, we were saddened to discover that lifesaving skills take a backseat when it comes to learning something new. When compared to other practical skills like driving and swimming, the interest in equipping oneself with a lifesaving skill such as CPR+AED is dismal. We want to change that, especially since this gives us the power to protect and save our loved ones when the situation calls for it.

Heart to HeartWe believe that your campaign helps empower women. With this, who are your favourite female role models and why?

Grace: Michelle Obama. She is the prime example of a woman who is ambitious, yet keeps it real. She was born and raised under unfortunate circumstances, yet built a mighty name for herself and uses her influential position to do good and spread kindness in the world. 

Kimberly: As cliche as it sounds, my mother is my role model! She loves and protects our family fiercely, and that inspires me to be a better person.

Why do you think it’s important to encourage female youths to get trained in and gain confidence to perform CPR+AED skills? Do you think this empowers them in any way?

Female youths are an under targeted pool of potential lifesavers. In Singapore, the lifesaving support provided by bystanders is relatively low around 20%. We are encouraging more female youth to step up to this cause, in hopes of improving the overall bystander support rate in Singapore.

By getting themselves trained and gaining confidence to perform CPR+AED skills, these ladies are also equipping themselves with the ability to protect their loved ones. 

Heart to HeartThrough your project, what do you hope to achieve?

Over the past few months, we engaged over 1,000 students and trained a total of 97 undergraduates in our basic CPR+AED Awareness Workshop, provided by the Singapore Red Cross. We hope that through our campaign, more female youth will be able to lend a helping hand and step up to render assistance if they ever witness an incident of a cardiac arrest. We also hope to shed light on the overall imbalance in the number of males and females being trained in lifesaving skills in Singapore. We believe that more efforts can be put into reaching under-targeted groups to empower to be lifesavers. 

In your opinion, what are the most common barriers for female youths to learning CPR+AED skills?

Based on our focus group findings with 19 female youth participants, we found that the greatest barriers are none other than the lack of time, lack of information on where to receive training, and the lack of interest.

To target these factors, Heart to Heart brought CPR+AED training to NTU to make it convenient for students to pick up CPR+AED skills. We also dished out heart-stirring content pieces on social media and organised interactive events to attract female youth to learn about CPR+AED.

What are some advantages one has when equipped with CPR+AED skills?

Being CPR+AED trained means being able to potentially save lives and protect your loved ones. Attending training will help to build confidence to perform these skills and give you peace of mind when you are prepared for times of emergency. 

Where can we learn more about CPR+AED skills?

You can visit the official websites for Singapore Red Cross (redcross.sg) or the Singapore Heart Foundation (myheart.org.sg) to sign up for first aid and life support courses. We recommend first-time learners to attend the complimentary CPR+AED basic awareness workshop.

What advice would you give young women about getting started in learning CPR+AED skills?

You have the power to save lives, so don’t be afraid! Breaking a rib or failing to save a victim may sound daunting, but not doing anything is worse because it gives the victim no chance of survival. Have courage and take the first step in learning CPR+AED skills starting now! 

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Thank you so much, Heart to Heart! We hope that with this campaign, you are more motivated to consider learning CPR+AED skills. You could save a life in the future! 

For more information on Heart to Heart, you can check out their Instagram here.

Images provided by Heart to Heart.