Firefighter/EMT Safety, Health & Survival: Transforming Culture through Cutting-Edge EMS

Cutting-edge EMS is often defined by the latest research of clinical intervention, technology or resuscitative advancement. However, despite cutting-edge advancements with the field of out-of-hospital care, the Center for Disease Control continues to report that the leading cause of death in the United States is cardiovascular disease, claiming nearly 600,000 lives annually.

Despite EMS advances, the American College of Cardiology reports that out-of-hospital cardiac-arrest survival rates are a dismal 11% nationally, on average.

Driving many of the ailments that EMS and the healthcare system confront daily is what some have called a national epidemic: obesity. The American Heart Association notes that that 60-70% of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese, putting them at risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Cutting-edge EMS must transform itself to embrace prevention and education, aimed squarely at actively participating in combating the obesity epidemic, beginning in our school systems and expanding throughout our communities. This transformation must focus EMS-system energies and priorities—with heightened levels of emphasis—at reducing demands for emergency service based largely on preventable diseases that can be averted through education, coaching and culture change.

Particularly, school- and youth-based prevention and education programs, led in partnership with EMS systems, can create a new generation that largely shifts EMS from a responding system of failed public-health practices to a prevention- and education-based system that drives public health. Even modest reductions in weight driven by lifestyle changes and education provide dramatic results for individuals in terms of avoiding many of the disease processes that are consider obesity comorbid factors.

This transformation may not occur overnight, but cutting-edge EMS systems should challenge themselves to redefine the paradigm of service delivery from being primarily based on response to one that is prevention and education centric. Community and healthcare savings from such efforts can be invested with community public-health efforts.

The American fire service has made significant inroads into prioritizing fire-prevention strategies in local communities, reducing the incidence of structure fires from almost 1.1 million in 1977 to less than half that (480,500) in 2012, according to the NFPA. A similar transformation from primarily EMS response to a community-based wellness/prevention model can be achieved as well.

Just imagine if cutting-edge EMS in the next 35 years produced reduced heart-disease deaths by greater than half. What a transformative value that would have in our communities and profession!

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