At the Fringe: Stories from Davos (8) – Small City, Strong Hearts

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Davos is one of those peaceful, small cities with an inspiring landscape of green hills and a clear sky. However, with a steady population of just around 12,000 people, the locals do not only have a quiet and serene environment (when it is not high season), the community also developed a “helping behavior”.

Heart Safe in Davos is a program initiated in 2008 by the Davos Hospital after people passed away due to the tardiness of medical assistance after they had heart attacks. This is why now around 1200 people in this town (around 10% of its population) are educated to use an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), which can be found in public spaces, for instance at the back of a seat in a public bus, in a conference room or even outside the hospital itself.

A defibrillator in one of Davos' buses.

Aranzazu Ballesteros

A defibrillator in one of Davos' buses.

Citizens trained in using the AED have to refresh their knowledge every year, said Dusko Sretovic, a public bus driver. He explained that he has never had to use this service even if he knows how to do it.

Markus Hehli, director of the Davos hospital, relates the development of this project to the size of this city’s population: “The small population makes it easier to develop helping behavior than in a big city. We know that sometimes we need each other more than in a bigger city. In the ten years that I’ve been here in Davos, once we had one week of snowing like hell”, he laughs as he remembers. “We could not go out of town, we could not go into town, and then people started thinking about each other, and that’s maybe a little more pronounced than in a big city.”

According to the Federal Statistical Office, cardiovascular diseases and malignant tumors in Switzerland are health problems that are especially dangerous after the age of 65. In Davos, the high altitude of the mountains and the change of life routine people face after leaving their normal lives and coming to the city to relax can encourage heart attacks.

“Altitude may influence heart attacks but there is no incidence rate, it is difficult to measure”, Hehli explained. These factors are an important motivation for this program to exist. However, at the end it is all about social cohesion, making the city and the resident’s hearts safer and stronger.

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