Many column inches in the daily newspapers have been devoted lately to increasing the nutritional value of the food offerings in our public schools. Like it or not, nearly all of America’s students eligible for free or reduced school lunch programs now eat both breakfast and lunch at school. Effectively, the American taxpayer is responsible for two thirds of the students’ daily nutrition. This is a significant charge for all of us and the fact that we are not doing very well by these children and young adults was recognized recently by 250 nation-wide “eat-ins.” In many areas these well organized “slow food” events did encourage people to think about the possibility of offering more local, fresh ingredients to our students on a daily basis. Certainly, wellness is a topic deserving mush more media attention. Unlike reactive solutions like prescription drugs, emergency treatment options, and health insurance overhauls, or preventative techniques like health screenings, cholesterol testing, or colonoscopies, wellness is a solution to train individuals to make positive, transformative, life-altering decisions – forever.
But what of a more pressing and immediate health issue; that of sudden cardiac arrest, an interruption in the normal heart rhythm, taking the lives of 7,000 to 10,000 school children each year. What about an organized “heart-in” in which cardiac screenings, CPR training, and AED Defibrillator instruction would be available for all student athletes? Of course a healthy diet is desirable, but a healthy heart is much more immediately necessary for any student engaging in vigorous physical activity.
Why limit CPR and AED training to the adults in charge of youth sports? The students themselves are much more likely to work out with peers on and off the field, thus far more likely to be closer to a victim in a sudden cardiac emergency than is the coach or referee or even the paramedic assigned to the event, if there is one.
Preparedness could easily be as much a part of sports training as are the ubiquitous push ups and crunches. The audience is already there and willing to be instructed. Because of the nature of the leisure time activities in which this age group engages, the idea of using an AED device is a natural and not to be feared. There exists a huge untapped resource of potential life savers today in our own schools. Train them to save lives today and continue to work toward providing them healthy nutrition in the longer run.