The Government is being urged to follow its British counterpart and make CPR training part of the school curriculum.
From 2020, all English secondary school leavers will be taught how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), learn the purpose of defibrillators, and to give basic treatment for common injuries.
The New Zealand Resuscitation Council, led by chief executive Kevin Nation, said establishing something similar here would ensure a generation of children became confident in their ability to save lives.
“This is an internationally established, common sense policy, and with the government already reviewing our educational curriculum, we believe this is the perfect time to discuss teaching CPR in every school.”
Sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest was the third-leading cause of death in industrialised nations, and ischaemic heart disease was the second most prevalent cause of death in New Zealand.
A professional response by paramedics and physicians, on average, takes at least five minutes to arrive, but the brain begins to die after three to five minutes.
In most cases, bystanders who witness such a collapse can at least perform basic chest compressions, the key procedure to protect the brain from dying.
Last week, members of the public helped keep a 17-year-old boy alive by performing CPR after he went into cardiac arrest while driving.
About 12 per cent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims in New Zealand survived following emergency CPR.
While the figure was an improvement on past years, the council was confident the country could do better.
Nation believed just two hours of teaching annually, beginning at 12 years old, would be enough to reach not only the children themselves but their wider communities.
“Kids come home buzzing to share what they learn, and it could be their siblings or parents who then go on to save a life.”
Currently, about half-a-million Kiwi children have been taught lifesaving skills through the St John in Schools programme, but it was up to individual schools to sign up to.
Under the Resuscitation Council’s proposal, all schoolchildren would be taught.
The council’s communications and engagement advisor Alastair Reith said the plan didn’t have to be costly, with teachers able to be trained rather than the children directly. They would then pass on the learning to their pupils.
The Ministry of Health was approached for comment on the proposal, but was unable to provide a response by the time of publication.