About the Youth Heart Watch Program

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and sudden cardiac death (SCD) are major public health problems: In the U.S., an estimated 380,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur each year, the number one cause of death, responsible for about one death every 90 seconds.

Youth Heart Watch (YHW) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia aims to prevent sudden cardiac death among children and adolescents. The program serves as a resource that helps develop pediatric public access automated external defibrillator (AED) programs in schools, recreation centers, youth sports programs, and other public places. In this region, our goal is to have one of these life-saving devices in every school in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware and accessible to every youth playing field or sports event.

Youth Heart Watch is an affiliate of Project ADAM® (Automated Defibrillators in Adam's Memory), a private, not-for-profit program initiated through Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Project ADAM was created in 1999 in honor of Adam Lemel, who died at age 17 from sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball. If an AED was available that day, Adam's life might have been saved. Youth Heart Watch joined Project ADAM in the early 2000’s.

In 2014, Youth Heart Watch received national recognition and was awarded a Program of Excellence Hospital Charitable Services Award, sponsored by Jackson Healthcare, in Atlanta, GA.

Training and education for students and staff

An automated external defibrillator is a lightweight, portable device that automatically diagnoses life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms that can be treated by defibrillation. Defibrillation helps to reset the abnormal heart rhythm using an electrical shock to reestablish an effective rhythm. With simple audio and visual commands, AEDs are designed to be easily used by the layperson. Youth Heart Watch provides training for students and staff on the use of these devices.

The program also offers education about the potential causes of SCA, including poor heart health habits that are formed in childhood. Obesity, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and hypertension are known to be major factors in the development of coronary disease that leads to myocardial infarction (heart attack) and sudden cardiac death in adults. Early health education can be effective in promoting healthy behaviors among students and youth.

Through these efforts, it is hoped that lives will be saved not only by AEDs, but also by creating an increased awareness of the warning signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest and the risk factors for this condition. YHW also aims to raise awareness, from childhood forward, of heart-healthy lifestyle choices.

Our programs and services

Youth Heart Watch works toward eradicating sudden cardiac death through research, education, prevention, and advocacy.  Youth Heart Watch has two major components: an SCD Prevention AED program and a CPR and AED Education Program.

  1. Heart Safe School and Recreation Programs include The YHW Sudden Cardiac Death Prevention Program committed to help make automated external defibrillators (AEDs) available to all children and adolescents. As part of implementing a school AED program, YHW provides cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AED training, development of a cardiac emergency response plan (CERP) and practiced sudden cardiac arrest drills to complete Heart Safe Schools designation. The same program is available to sports teams, recreation centers, and other community organizations that serve youth.
  2. The YHW Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation/Automated External Defibrillator (CPR/AED) Education and Training Program – YHW has developed a virtual and classroom lesson plan to teach CPR and AED use to high school students, complete with videos and handouts for educators to use in their classrooms. This curriculum will fulfill the requirement to teach CPR and AED use to high school students as mandated by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. In addition, we provide CPR and AED education and training to community organizations and sports teams.
  3. The Heart Health Screening Study (HHSS) — A research study that seeks to identify young people with potentially serious heart problems that have not been previously diagnosed and then provide them with heart health education. The HHSS partners with CHOP's Healthy Weight Program to provide information about healthy eating, exercise and smoking cessation. The HHSS research study is also committed to improving screening methods in order to find the best ways to detect these problems including novel ways to interpret the ECG.

Next Steps