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 420,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur each year, the number one cause of death, responsible for about one death every two minutes.

The Youth Heart Watch (YHW) program at The 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 and other public places. The goal is to have one of these devices in every school in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

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. The program was created in 1999 in honor of Adam Lemel, who died at age 17 from sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball.

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 delivers an electric shock through the chest to return an abnormal heart rhythm to normal. 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 occurrence of coronary disease leading to myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and sudden cardiac death in adults, so early health education can be effective in promoting healthy behaviors among students.

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

Our programs and services

Youth Heart Watch has two components:

  1. The YHW School Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Program —  A program committed to making AEDs available to all children and adolescents. In addition to implementing AEDs, the YHW School AED program provides cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AED training assistance, and works toward eradicating sudden cardiac death through research, education, prevention and advocacy.
  2. 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 is currently partnering 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.

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