Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of the leading causes of death in the United States killing more than 1,000 people each day — more than breast cancer, lung cancer, stroke or AIDS. These are the type of compelling statistics that help a misunderstood health issue like SCA get noticed, but they don’t tell the full story. We saw an opportunity to create new research to uncover some of the driving factors behind this public health issue from both a patient and physician perspective. Working with our client, the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS), a working group of their members and a national research firm, Ipsos Healthcare, we set out to take a fresh look at the perceptions and behaviors that impact SCA prevention today.
The unknown impact of SCA
While SCA can happen to anyone, research shows that the condition disproportionately impacts minorities — particularly African-Americans. A study on racial differences in the incidence of cardiac arrest and subsequent survival found that African-Americans were significantly more likely to experience cardiac arrest in every age group compared to Caucasians, and the survival rate after an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest among African-Americans was about one-third that of Caucasians.
Why are African-Americans more likely to die of SCA?
There are risk factors that are of particular concern for this group, including higher incidence of heart disease and hypertension. However, the new research suggests that a large percentage of high-risk patients, particularly African-Americans, are not aware of SCA and are not receiving lifesaving treatments, resulting in greater mortality rates. The sample included 1,500 adult consumers and 300 physicians (primary care, cardiologists and electrophysiologists) to better understand levels of awareness of SCA and barriers to care. The results clearly demonstrated significant gaps in communication regarding SCA among African-Americans and the physicians who treat them:
- African-Americans are significantly less familiar with sudden cardiac arrest, with only 18 percent able to correctly identify the condition, compared with 24 percent of the general population.