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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
Editorials

Proposals for the heart

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With a couple of simple, virtually no-cost measures the Florida Legislature could promote health and self-reliance and undoubtedly save lives.

Lawmakers need only back the sensible legislative agenda of the American Heart Association.

One proposal, which has languished in Tallahassee the past two years, would reduce the liability for schools that allow kids to use their playgrounds and athletic fields after hours.

This could be particularly important to schools in neighborhoods without recreational facilities.

The purpose is to encourage exercise, no small accomplishment in a state that has close to a 30 percent adult obesity rate. It’s 13 percent for children.

A study released last year that screened students in seven Hillsborough high schools found 40 percent of the students suffered from prehypertension, and 25 percent were classified as overweight or obese.

Children who exercise are far more likely to keep healthy weight and blood pressure levels. They also are more likely to continue exercising as adults.

The proposed legislation — Hillsborough Rep. Ross Spano is a sponsor — would enable schools to enter into joint-use agreements with local governments or private organizations in order to allow the public use of recreation and sports facilities after school hours.

The arrangement would free a school of liability for injuries or damages that occur on school property when opened to the public — unless there had been gross negligence. Schools still would be liable for injuries that occur during school-sponsored events.

The legislation will not automatically open up schoolyards. School officials would surely want to ensure adequate supervision. Some schools already hold after-hour events or have arrangements with youth organizations.

Still, the provision would make it easier for schools to offer families access to school recreation facilities in the cases where it is appropriate.

Another eminently sensible Heart Association proposal would require all public school students to undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training during high school.

The need for such training is obvious.

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates are less than 10 percent. With CPR, survival rates are more than 40 percent. Yet the Heart Association reports less than one-third of heart attack victims receive CPR.

This policy would dramatically increase the number of Floridians prepared to deal with a medical crisis. And as Gul Dadlani, medical director of cardiology for All Children’s Heart Institute, says, asking that students be “trained for one hour” sometime during four years of high school is hardly an onerous request.

Instructions require a DVD and a few mannequins, and Heart Association officials say there are plenty of certified volunteer instructors. The average training cost per students is about $1. This is no budget buster.

Some school districts already provide such training. Hillsborough, to its credit, as part of its physical education classes, gives the same compression-only CPR instructions that the Heart Association advocates.

The American Heart Association’s requests are modest and are aimed at improving health care through individual actions, not government spending. Yet the payoff should be great, with healthier Floridians, lower death rates and far fewer health care costs — for individuals and society.

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