News Release
February 6, 2014

Design and Medicine Unite to Save Lives: Penn Medicine Public Art Initiative Aims to Draw Attention to Automated External Defibrillators

Nationwide Defibrillator Design Challenge Kicks Off at Amtrak's Historic Philadelphia 30th Street Station with Inaugural Installation by Penn Designer

PHILADELPHIA — If you saw someone collapse and lose consciousness, you would likely call 911, and if they weren’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse, you might also know to start CPR while you waited for help to arrive. But would you know where to look for an automated external defibrillator (AED)? The answer to this public health challenge may soon be “yes” thanks to a new design initiative sponsored by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Penn Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania.

Launching today at Amtrak’s historic Philadelphia 30th Street Station, the Penn Defibrillator Design Challenge aims to draw attention to these life-saving devices – a key link in the chain of steps to treat cardiac arrest, which takes the lives of more than 350,000 people each year in the United States – and educate the public about their use through engaging artwork in the space immediately surrounding the AEDs. The project includes a nationwide, online contest in which the public can create, submit and vote on virtual designs for eye-catching AED artwork. 

“It is critical to find effective strategies to disseminate health information and guide behavior outside the few minutes that patients spend with their physicians. Most emergencies happen when patients are at home or out in public, and we all must depend on lay bystanders to help,” said Defibrillator Design Challenge Director Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Penn.  “We believe that by incorporating artwork into important public health messages, we will make an indelible impression on the viewer so that they will be able to identify AEDs in all public locations and feel empowered to use them in an emergency.”

The new initiative builds on the success of the 2012 MyHeartMap Challenge, which utilized crowdsourcing tactics to help locate over 1,500 AEDs across the city of Philadelphia. Now, the Social Media and Health Innovation Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, led by Dr. Merchant, is continuing to promote the public’s awareness and knowledge about lifesaving AEDs in public locations, starting with the first AED design project installed today to kick off American Heart Month at Amtrak’s Philadelphia 30th Street Station.

The inaugural design was created by a team led by Orkan Telhan, PhD, assistant professor of Fine Arts; Emerging Design Practices at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

“Design is very good at creating context for individuals to talk about important issues-- in this case, something that has the potential to save lives,” said Dr. Telhan.  “We looked at this highly trafficked setting and designed a conversation space with public furniture so that people would take pause and pay attention to an important issue. Our furniture creates a reason for people to break from routine, learn about AED devices and create awareness about the competition. “

The partnership with Amtrak to launch the initiative in historic 30th Street Station is “a natural fit,” Merchant said. “The juxtaposition of the classic architecture, paired with the contemporary design of the new installation, makes for a truly eye-catching and engaging platform for the public to learn more about AEDs.”

“The safety and security of our passengers, employees and the traveling public is one of our most important corporate goals,” said Susan Reinertson, Amtrak Chief of Emergency Management and Corporate Security.  “We are proud to work with Penn to launch this innovative and important project here at 30th Street Station, where thousands of people will see it every day.” 

In addition to the 30th Street Station installation, Dr. Merchant’s team has also launched a nationwide online contest to allow the public to create, submit and vote on virtual designs for AED artwork. The team hopes the contest will pave new ground in the use of social media as a tool for public health education and community engagement.

“Our decade-long vision is that this project improves AED awareness in communities, empowers bystanders, and ultimately improves cardiac arrest outcomes.  While behavioral change and education take time, this project pioneers novel methods in accomplishing these goals,” Merchant said. “Social media and the Internet have been embraced as tools for health messaging, yet much work is needed to determine the most effective uses of web-based technologies. We hope that our contest will provide a potential solution and model for the use of online game approaches in health promotion.”

The online contest allows designers from across the country to submit their original artwork designed around real AEDs to decorate public spaces and raise awareness. The public will also play a large role, with the option for web users to view and vote on their favorite designs. The online submission will close on April 6, 2014, at which point an expert panel of artists, sponsors, scholars and physicians will review entries and, with the help of the public’s vote, identify the top winning designs that display artistic and educational excellence.

Next, the team will aim to partner with the winning artists and local businesses to select several designs that can become actual public installations. “These designs will draw attention and encourage use of AEDs during an emergency,” Merchant said, “thus continuing the spread of our important public health message around the need to understand and use the devices when a person’s life is on the line.”

Funding for the Penn Defibrillator Design Challenge is provided, in part, by the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania (LDI) and the AED Industry (Philips, Zoll, Heartsine, and Physio-Control).

For more information about the contest, please visit: http://www.defibdesignchallenge.com/, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.  

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.

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