HOUSTON -- Shirley King has been the secretary at her Sunnyside church for more than 20 years. She's also a retired nurse, who's tried to teach some of her neighbors how to perform CPR.
"I think the big thing is just the fear factor,” King said. “Not knowing what's going to happen, not knowing how to do it and what's going to happen to you. A lot of people are afraid."
A team of experts from Rice University has seen those same tendencies in low-income minority areas all throughout Houston. Most of those areas have higher numbers of heart attacks and fewer people either willing or able to administer CPR.
Their findings were just reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
They convinced Houston’s mayor and other city leaders that it’s time to try something new.
“We have to be healthier,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. "Each of us has the abilities in our own hands to save lives."
The city wants to save lives by partnering with churches to teach bystander CPR which is a hands-only approach, unlike the old technique that required mouth-to-mouth contact.
"We have to get people who are willing to get down on their knees, put their hands on a chest and conduct CPR,” said Dr. David Perrse with the Houston Public Health Authority.
Recently a member of King’s church collapsed from a heart attack during service.
"So I did CPR along with others who would help until the paramedics got there,” King said.
She believes her church is ready to lend a hand. "If the city is willing, we would be more than willing to step out and help," King said.