Isaura Carpio Uribe has lost several family members to heart attacks. So when a friend invited Uribe, a native of Mexico, to a Spanish-language CPR training, it was an easy decision.

“I had three brothers pass away from heart attacks,” Uribe said. “It’s really important for me to know what to do in that type of emergency.”

The session was organized through a partnership between Novant Health Community Engagement, Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute, the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation and the Latino Clergy Faith & Health Coalition. It’s led – in Spanish – by Lester Oliva from Medic, the Mecklenburg County EMS provider. The effort is part of the Keep the Beat initiative, a countywide strategy to teach the public a simpler way to perform CPR.

The Keep the Beat classes focus only on chest compressions, instead of the traditional mouth-to-mouth resuscitation usually associated with CPR. This method of hands-only CPR can be as effective as traditional CPR when administered in the first few minutes of someone going into cardiac arrest, according to research.

“When someone goes into cardiac arrest, their chance of surviving goes down by 10% for every minute of inaction,” Oliva told the two dozen training attendees gathered at First Baptist Church in Huntersville. “There is nothing you can do to make it worse, but if you act, you could save a life. As a paramedic, if I arrive on the scene and see that you’ve done something to help, I will feel relief.”

In addition to teaching about the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest and demonstrating CPR, Oliva and Novant Health team members answered questions and provided culturally sensitive examples and advice. One particular focus of the presentation was to reassure attendees about calling 911 in case of emergency. “Don’t be afraid to call 911,” Oliva emphasized. “There will be someone on the line who speaks Spanish, and you will not be charged unless you have to be transported to the hospital via ambulance.”

Organizers also offered instruction on stroke symptoms.

Closing a gap

Karina Runyan

People who live in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods are less likely to receive CPR from a bystander, researchers reported in a December 2019 study conducted by Duke University School of Medicine. The data showed that in neighborhoods with more that 75% Hispanic residents, bystanders administered CPR only 27% of the time, compared to 39% of the time in neighborhoods with less than 25% Latino residents.

Pastor Rafael Hernandez

Novant Health is working to close that gap by providing training like the one held in early June. “Novant Health is a co-founder of the Latino Clergy Faith & Health Coalition,” said Karina Runyan, neighborhood engagement partner at Novant Health. “The goal of the coalition is to give power and voice to the Latino community. We work with churches because they are often the front line of health information for immigrants, and Latino pastors are trusted leaders in the community.”

Runyan and Joyce Bumgarner, regional cardiovascular coordinator at Novant Heart & Vascular Institute, have been instrumental in helping coordinate this and other similar trainings throughout this summer. In total, nine congregations and a community center will receive CPR training as well as 10 AEDs (automated external defibrillators), valued at $9,690, donated by the Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation.

Rafael Hernandez, the Latino minister at First Baptist Church in Huntersville, is a member of the Latino Faith & Health Coalition and was grateful to host the training. “I believe faith and health are very connected,” he said. “I want to create more space in my congregation for talking about and taking care of our health.”