St John and its partner ASB have joined forces to gift life-saving defibrillators to deprived and rural communities around New Zealand, to help reduce cardiac arrest fatalities.

ASB, and Philips, have donated 28 external defibrillators (AEDs) to be installed at businesses, community centres, marae, sports grounds and schools, identified by St John as locations where there is a community need.

Of the 28 AEDs, one was presented to Tukotahi Marae in the remote Bay of Plenty town of Maketu today. This will be followed by St John’s ‘3 Steps for Life’ programme, to teach locals how to perform CPR and use an AED.

A Tukotahi Marae spokesperson, Karen Pene, says it’s a valuable gift for the community. “We are so grateful to be given this device. We are a coastal community that comes into contact with dozens of fishermen and we see a lot of people and whanau coming and going from our community, from the young to the old. It’s reassuring to have this available to our people for when it’s needed.”

Death from cardiac arrest is our silent toll. It can happen to anyone of any age, including children. Findings from St John’s Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA) Report released today, reveals that five people a day (nearly 2,000 per year) are treated by St John for a cardiac arrest that occurs in the community and every minute that goes by without CPR or defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by 10-15 percent, with only 13% surviving a cardiac arrest.

“One of the most significant improvements we can make to our cardiac arrest survival rate is to boost the number of AEDs available to the public and ensure more people are trained in CPR,” says St John Medical Director Dr Tony Smith.

“Our research also continues to show that compared with Europeans, Maori and Pacific peoples have a disproportionally higher incidence of out of hospital cardiac arrest, associated with risk factors such as deprivation. We know that lives can be saved by taking three easy steps: call 111 for an ambulance, immediately start CPR and find and use the nearest AED,” he says.

St John’s OHCA report also reveals that rates of cardiac arrest are also higher in rural areas, and as socioeconomic deprivation increases, the rate of cardiac arrest follows.

ASB has been supporting St John to get AEDs into communities with the greatest need, to help increase the chance of survival for the most vulnerable people.

“We have AEDs in all of our branches and have had to use them a number of times, so we know how critical they can be in an emergency, and the difference they can make,” says ASB head of Community and Sponsorship, Mark Graham.

“We’ve been a partner of St John for over 12 years and we’re incredibly proud of the work we have done together over that time. Helping to get 28 more AEDs into locations across New Zealand, especially in communities that may be lacking access to such services, will hopefully make a big difference in emergency situations when they need it most.”

Other locations earmarked for an AED include Whangarei Primary School, Tunohopu Marae in Rotorua, Napier Tech Sports Club and Corstorphine Community Hub in Dunedin.

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