If you were walking down the street and a man fell to the pavement clutching his chest, would you know what to do? According to a recent study, of 19,331 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, there’s a 45 percent chance that someone would rush forward to give the man the CPR he needs.
Important follow-up question: if you were walking down the street and a woman fell to the pavement clutching her chest, would you know what to do? The same study showed that a woman is 27 percent less likely than a man to get CPR from a bystander in public. While there isn’t enough research on the intersecting factors of gender and race, studies looking at race and gender separately suggest that women of color are even less likely to receive bystander CPR.
As half a million Americans will die from cardiac arrest annually, timely CPR is an incredibly important matter. Even as major health organizations train tens of millions of people in resuscitation techniques each year, women still lack equal access to the lifesaving compressions of CPR.
It’s important to look at why bystanders are so much less likely to intervene to save a woman in cardiac arrest. The first barrier is a wildly inaccurate myth that women don’t even experience cardiac arrest. Though many people think heart issues are a “men’s problem,” heart disease actually affects more women than men, killing roughly one woman every minute. Even when bystanders accurately identify that a woman needs CPR, they may be afraid to touch her breasts, confused about where to put their hands, or apprehensive about pushing down hard and fast on a woman’s body.
So, how do we address this laundry list of misconceptions that are literally killing women? The same way we popularized the resuscitation techniques that remarkably double or triple cardiac arrest victims’ chances of survival: through education.
Imagine a CPR manikin (the medical term for the dummies used in training courses), that expressionless, universal human form meant to represent everybody and anybody who could suffer cardiac arrest. See something missing from the manikin’s body? Or rather, two things?
Noticing this shocking oversight, an equal parts pissed-off and inspired team at JOAN Creative had an idea—the WoManikin. The WoManikin is a universal attachment that can easily be slipped over the common flat-chested manikin to add breasts. The WoManikin teaches people how to perform CPR on a torso with breasts during training, so they’ll know what to do when they see a woman or person with breasts in cardiac arrest.
By putting the sleeve design on WoManikin.org as an open source pattern and starting a fund to create more attachments, JOAN hopes to get a WoManikin in every CPR training program in the country by 2020. JOAN developed the WoManikin in collaboration with CPR experts, cardiologists, and organizations that care about closing the gender gap in CPR. So, in that way, the WoManikin doesn’t just provide a way to challenge biased CPR training—it shows what happens when women collaborate and apply creativity to tackle the inequities around them.
To learn more and join the fight to end gender disparities in CPR, visit WoManikin.org.