Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Is Cincinnati's Heimlich Heroes training program using thousands of kids around the country to circulate an experimental medical treatment? Plus the National Institutes of Health tags the group for misrepresentation

Via Heimlich family maneuvers by Peter Korn, Portland Tribune,


I've been unable to locate any published research studies supporting that treatment recommendation. (If you know of any, please send me citations.)  

Via the website of the affiliated Heimlich Heroes first aid training program:

Click here for a page on the organization's website listing dozens of cities and towns where kids have been or will be trained. The list doesn't identify who conducted the training or at what facility or school.

Via this clip from training videos posted on their website, Heimlich Heroes is teaching kids around the country to "Heimlich" unconscious choking victims:

According to her LinkedIn bio, Heimlich Heroes program director Terri Huntington has no medical training and her last job was working for a multi-level marketing company called The Pampered Chef.

When I asked her for any evidence supporting the use of "the Heimlich" to revive unconscious choking victims, she instructed me to go away.

Eric Perez MD is an emergency medicine specialist at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York City who reviews medical treatments posted on the website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (under the aegis of the National Institutes of Health).

Via a January 6, 2015 e-mail, he wrote me:
To my knowledge, there is no definitive evidence for or against performing abdominal thrusts in unconscious patients.
Via Heimlich maneuver on unconscious persons causes controversy by Nick Kammerer, Rambler Newspapers, Irvine, TX, November 24, 2014:
Certain entities, such as the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, do not recommend using the Heimlich maneuver on unconscious patients......Heimlich Heroes, a Cincinnati-based first aid program developed partly by Henry Heimlich, is teaching students to perform the Heimlich maneuver on unconscious choking victims. This means that school children are being taught a medical practice that is not recommended by the American Heart Association or Red Cross, two highly credible public health organizations.
Based on the above, unless I'm missing something, Heimlich Heroes appears to be using young people around the country to circulate an experimental, unapproved medical treatment.

The program was also recently tagged by the National Institutes of Health for circulating false information.

Here's a claim that, until recently, was posted on the Heimlich Heroes website's FAQ page:

Via a recent FOIA request I filed with the NIH:

The Heimlich Heroes FAQ web page has since changed the claim to:

I'll fact-check that claim with those three organizations and report the results.

This item has been slightly revised for clarity.