Delivering the Data: Grounding Communications in Research to Reach High-Risk Patients

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of the leading causes of death in the United States killing more than 1,000 people each day — more than breast cancer, lung cancer, stroke or AIDS. These are the type of compelling statistics that help a misunderstood health issue like SCA get noticed, but they don’t tell the full story. We saw an opportunity to create new research to uncover some of the driving factors behind this public health issue from both a patient and physician perspective. Working with our client, the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS), a working group of their members and a national research firm, Ipsos Healthcare, we set out to take a fresh look at the perceptions and behaviors that impact SCA prevention today.

The unknown impact of SCA  
While SCA can happen to anyone, research shows that the condition disproportionately impacts minorities — particularly African-Americans. A study on racial differences in the incidence of cardiac arrest and subsequent survival found that African-Americans were significantly more likely to experience cardiac arrest in every age group compared to Caucasians, and the survival rate after an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest among African-Americans was about one-third that of Caucasians.

Why are African-Americans more likely to die of SCA?  
There are risk factors that are of particular concern for this group, including higher incidence of heart disease and hypertension. However, the new research suggests that a large percentage of high-risk patients, particularly African-Americans, are not aware of SCA and are not receiving lifesaving treatments, resulting in greater mortality rates. The sample included 1,500 adult consumers and 300 physicians (primary care, cardiologists and electrophysiologists) to better understand levels of awareness of SCA and barriers to care. The results clearly demonstrated significant gaps in communication regarding SCA among African-Americans and the physicians who treat them:
  • African-Americans are significantly less familiar with sudden cardiac arrest, with only 18 percent able to correctly identify the condition, compared with 24 percent of the general population.
  • 90 percent of African-Americans say their doctor has never talked to them about their risk for SCA.
  • More than 60 percent of African-Americans who reported no prior heart disease diagnosis and experience heart disease symptoms do not go to the doctor after experiencing those symptoms.
  • Nearly half of physicians did not rank SCA as the condition that poses the greatest risk to Americans today, even though SCA claims more lives each year than stroke, breast cancer, lung cancer or AIDS.

How HRS & BRG used new data to inform communications
By utilizing this research as the foundation of our award-winning campaign, Arrest the Risk, we were able to create a highly-targeted approach that reached the health care community and at-risk consumers to overcome communication barriers and elevate the dialogue about SCA. Program elements included partnerships with the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) and Emmy-award winning journalist Shaun Robinson, and a grassroots outreach effort in 10 cities at the highest risk of SCA, creating positive changes in communities nationwide.

Learn more during my talk at the PRSA Health Academy Conference
I look forward to talking more about “Arrest the Risk,” the importance of grounding a campaign in research, and ways to move physicians and at-risk patients from awareness to action at the PRSA Health Academy Conference. I hope you’ll come join our conversation during Breakout Sessions: Set II from 1:45–3:15 p.m. on May 8.

Laurie Mobley, senior vice president of BRG Communications, will speak at the PRSA Health Academy Conference on May 8. She can be reached at lmobley@brgcommunications.com. Visit brgcommunications.com and follow @BRGLiving to learn more about BRG Communications. 

About the author

Laurie Mobley


  • I really enjoyed this article. It’s a good marriage between gathering data and executing actionable items from what’s been gathered. Although I think it’s the doctor’s responsibility to understand and treat the patient, it’s also our own responsibility to understand what our greatest risk factors are.

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