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AIHA Emergency Medical Services Initiative

In reality, everything turned out to be much simpler than it seemed. My biggest surprise was that by the end of the first day I was able to perform procedures that I used to consider extremely complicated. I believe my colleagues at work, and the city in general, would benefit from such skills. The need for this sort of EMS training is enormous.

— Viktor Smirnov, head engineer of the technical shift at Volga Regional Hydraulic Station, who attended an EMS workshop in Dubna, Russia, organized by AIHA’s Communities for International Development project. 

In emergency situations, life or death is often determined within the first few minutes of a crisis. The medical knowledge and expertise of first-responders coupled with a reliable emergency response infrastructure can make a critical difference when an unexpected illness, accident, or widespread disaster occurs.

According to WHO, death rates due to accidents and cardiac incidents are roughly three times greater in Central Europe and the nations of the former Soviet Union than in the United States. A lack of well trained first-responders, together with a relatively weak emergency response infrastructure, greatly contributed to these high mortality rates. As a result, many countries in the region made improving pre-hospital and hospital-based emergency care a key priority of their health system reform efforts in the 1990s and 2000s.

In 1993, AIHA began working with governments and healthcare institutions in the region to create sustainable capacity to effectively respond to emergencies ranging from routine medical cases and traumas to disasters involving mass causalities.

Through our Emergency and Disaster Medicine Program, partners greatly increased the ability of countries in the region to provide quality training and education in emergency and disaster medicine and improve knowledge and skills in first aid and emergency care among first-responders and clinicians.

Selected examples of outcomes resulting from our Emergency Medical Services Initiative are detailed below.

Emergency Medical Services Training Centers

With the goal of creating sustainable capacity to effectively respond to emergencies ranging from routine medical cases to disasters involving mass casualties, AIHA and our partners established national Emergency Medical Services Training Centers (EMSTCs) throughout the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. These centers had a uniform curriculum designed specifically to fit into the existing structure of healthcare systems in the region.

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At AIHA partnership EMSTCs in Eurasia, healthcare professionals learned emergency techniques including CPR, emergency obstetrics, intubation, spinal immobilization, disaster response, and triaging practices that can be performed at the accident site, en route to, and in the hospital setting.

National EMSTCs played a critical role in upgrading urgent care skills necessary to the management of medical emergencies among primary healthcare personnel. Centers also taught life-saving skills to non-medical professionals such as flight attendants, firefighters, and traffic police who may be called upon to provide emergency care.

Emphasizing the acquisition of practical skills, courses were composed of learning modules accompanied by computer presentations, slides, overheads, handouts, and a variety of didactic tools, as well as hands-on experience through the use of mannequins. Training modules were constantly being updated to reflect current trends in emergency care and were adapted to meet the unique needs of individual countries and regions.

Starting in 1993, AIHA and its twinning partners established 16 EMSTCs in 12 nations spanning Eurasia. During their first decade of operation, these institutions provided practical, skills-based training to nearly 40,000 healthcare practitioners, first-responders, students, and other groups.

Pediatric Emergency Medical Services in Georgia

Operating within the framework of our highly successful USAID-supported Tbilisi / Atlanta partnership, AIHA, along with Emory University School of Medicine and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, provided technical assistance to the Central Children’s Hospital of Tbilisi in support of their efforts to establish the first modern pediatric emergency room in the South Caucasus region.

Communities for International Development

In 2005, AIHA and World Services of La Crosse (Wisconsin) received funding to implement health-related trainings developed through the successful partnership programs AIHA had been facilitating in Russia over the past 13 years. Through the Communities for International Development project, nine pairs of U.S.-Russian sister cities worked together to improve specific healthcare service delivery issues that presented major concerns to their communities, including emergency and disaster medicine.

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Communities for International Development (CID) is a registered U.S. nonprofit organization that evolved from a grass-roots effort of American citizens who wanted to help their Russian counterparts address concerns shared by all communities in both countries, such as safety, health, education, culture, economic development, among other things.

As part of the CID project supported by AIHA and World Services, the three Russian industrial cities of Dubna, Izhevsk, and Snezhinsk hosted a series of emergency medical services training workshops that targeted physicians and feldshers of local ambulance stations, as well as representatives of a number of organizations that work in close cooperation with emergency services, including firefighters, militia, rescuers, sports coaches, secondary school teachers, and other professionals that perform highly challenging tasks or handle hazardous materials at their work places.

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