DoM cardiologists launch campaign to map out defibrillators across the city

Mar 9, 2020
Brianne Tulk

A new initiative led by a group of Department of Medicine cardiologists, scientists and trainees is challenging the public to locate as many Automated Defibrillators (AEDs) as possible across the Greater Toronto Area in a campaign to save lives.

The GTA Heart Map Challenge, a month-long scavenger hunt, kicked off last week to find and map out AEDs across the city.

“Ultimately, we want to increase the survival rates of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests,” says Dr. Mali Worme, a Department of Medicine Cardiology resident and co-founder of the campaign. 

They estimate that 20,000 AEDs are located across the city in community centres, gyms, supermarkets and many other public spaces, however there is no central registry that points to their locations. Mapping out where AEDs are housed will help save lives, Worme says.

As many as 85 per cent of cardiac arrests happen in public places or at home, though the current survival rate for cardiac arrests that occur outside of the hospital is about 10 per cent. According to Worme, using an AED before paramedics arrive can increase this rate to more than 50 per cent.

“The only life-saving therapy for cardiac arrest is an electric shock to the heart delivered by a defibrillator,” Worme says. She explains that survival rates after a cardiac arrest drop by 10 per cent with every minute that passes.

“Time is really of the essence in these scenarios.”

The goal of the campaign is to locate at least 5,000 AEDs throughout the month of March, but Worme thinks they can find more. In its first day alone, the challenge mapped out 200 AEDs.

Promotional image from the GTA Heart Map ChallengePromotional image from the GTA Heart Map Challenge Worme developed the idea for the challenge alongside Department of Medicine Cardiology Prof. Paul Dorian last year after trying to encourage voluntary registration of AEDs, which proved to be difficult. Inspired by a similar challenge from the University of Pennsylvania, Worme and Dorian paired with community partners, including the Peel Paramedic Association, the Canadian Red Cross and PulsePoint, to launch the campaign.

To take part in the challenge, anyone can register for the event on the GTA Heart Map Challenge website. They can then download the PulsePoint AED app and get started locating AEDs in public spaces across the city. The challenge will award prizes to the individuals or teams who locate the most AEDs.

By mapping out AEDs across the city, Worme is confident the GTA Heart Map Challenge will help save lives. Especially in the case of cardiac arrests that happen outside of the hospital, she says, “The best way we can improve survival is to improve the ways patients are cared for before they get to the hospital.”