Illinois has passed a law requiring CPR to be added to high school curriculums. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law Thursday, and it will take effect immediately.

While the measure falls short of the American Heart Association’s efforts to get states to require CPR for graduation, AHA volunteers praised the important development.

“This legislation will create a new generation of lifesavers in Illinois,” said Lynne T. Braun, Ph.D., a volunteer with the American Heart Association who is chair of the AHA’s Illinois Advocacy Committee.

The American Heart Association and other organizations continually push for state legislatures to pass bills requiring CPR and automated external defibrillator training for high school students. So far, 16 states have passed laws requiring CPR for graduation – a total that ensures at least 1 million people a year will finish high school with this lifesaving skill.

Roughly 424,000 Americans fall victim to a sudden cardiac arrest outside of the hospital each year. On average, only 10 percent survive and less than one-third receive CPR from a bystander. 

Even though the availability of AEDs is increasing, most people do not know how to use them.

Bystander CPR can double or triple survival rates from cardiac arrest. However, many people do not get help from bystanders who could provide CPR if they knew how.

One tragic example was on display during Thursday’s announcement of the Illinois law in Bloomington-Normal.

The governor was joined by the parents of 17-year-old Lauren Laman, who died in 2008 after she collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest during a high school drill team practice. CPR was not given until the paramedics arrived. Although there was an AED nearby, it was not used.

The measure is also known as the Lauren Laman Law.

“I am thankful for the support my family and I have received to make the Lauren Laman Law possible,” said George Laman, Lauren’s father. “This success is bittersweet because many lives will be saved in Lauren’s name. However, the cost of losing our daughter Lauren was a terrible price to pay.”

The governor was also joined by the Bell family. Harry Bell saved his father, Eric, in January by doing CPR for 12 minutes before paramedics arrived.

“Education is number one, but then actually take action if you see somebody that passes out or has a problem,” Eric Bell told the Chicago Tribune. “Just take action if it ever happens around you. … I’m just very thankful.”

Stories such as these – both happy and sad – illustrate why the CPR in schools efforts have been so important.

So far, 16 states have the full CPR graduation requirement: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Colorado, North Dakota and Utah have not passed such laws but have approved funding for the training. The AHA is continuing to encourage other states to follow suit.

Of the 16 states, 14 have passed laws since the AHA issued a science advisory in 2011 calling for state legislatures to mandate and fund CPR training for graduation.

That advisory cited studies showing that CPR in school had the potential to be one of the most effective ways to train more people in CPR, ensuring lifesavers were more likely to be found at public places such as malls, health clubs, swimming pools, or family gatherings.

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