The Red Cross Society of China is trying to make first aid training popular in schools.
A team of doctors from the Red Cross Society of Hebei province undertaking an emergency rescue drill. (Photo: China Daily)
In Yiwu of Zhejiang province, the local Red Cross branch is taking the lead. About 90 percent of about 8,000 teachers have a first aid certificate, said Xu Xianzheng, deputy head of the branch.
Since 2016, Xu and his peers have been campaigning for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other medical aid skills to be taught in schools.
"We started at school by teaching teachers first," he said. "For students, the training is not compulsory. But if the principal of the school is more aware of the importance of first aid and asks for courses for their students, we will cooperate with them."
Each semester, teachers take a two-day first aid class to get certified while students take two hours without needing to obtain certificates.
"We teach them basic treatment for common injuries like bandaging, dealing with choking, sunstroke and burn injuries," Xu said. "Secondary school students and teachers should be taught how to use a defibrillator."
In schools like Shangxi Middle School in Yiwu, students over 18 years old should take a first aid test upon graduation.
According to an essay by researchers from Shandong University, published in JAMA Cardiology in May 2017, about 550,000 people in China have heart attacks each year. However, the survival rate of those who have an attack outside of a hospital is less than 1 percent, compared with 12 percent in the United States.
The essay said that is due to the lack of CPR training among the public. Just 1 percent of Chinese have knowledge of CPR, while in the US the proportion is 33 percent and in France 40 percent.
Chen Wei - deputy director of People's Hospital in Kecheng district of Quzhou, Zhejiang province, and deputy to the National People's Congress - made a proposal in March that children as young as 2 years old should learn first aid.
"There is a 'golden 5 minutes' in first aid, which means that after a patient has respiratory failure or cardiac arrest, CPR may save lives. Once the golden time passes, there will be irreversible consequences," Chen proposed during the two sessions this year.
In June, the Chinese government issued the Healthy China 2030 Initiative, a national plan aimed at advancing public health services. The guideline suggested that schools should include first aid skills, especially CPR, in exams and make it a necessary measure of evaluation.
China is not alone in proposing such guidelines. Last July, the United Kingdom planned to make CPR training and first aid compulsory courses in schools from 2020, according to a British government announcement.
Xu, deputy head of the Red Cross society branch, said that first aid education should be listed as compulsory by the government.
"Those in need of medical treatment immediately but who are out of hospital really need first aid, and more people getting the skills can help improve the survival rate a lot," he said.