European First Aid Centre established in Paris

Published: 29 January 2003 0:00 CET

The European Reference Centre for First Aid Education was established in Paris today, with the signing of an agreement by the President of the French Red Cross, Professor Marc Gentilini, and the Federation's Secretary General, Didier Cherpitel.

Managed by the French Red Cross, it will promote the teaching of first aid across the continent, and facilitate the sharing of expertise in the field between the 52 European Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their partners, in order to help them increase the number and quality of their first aid programmes.

At the end of the signing ceremony, Prof. Gentilini pointed out that the French Red Cross had always considered training in first aid a priority. He thanked European sister Societies for their show of confidence in giving the French Red Cross the responsibility of managing the European Centre.

"First aid is one of the core activities carried out by every one of the Federation's 178 member Red Cross and Red Societies and their 97 million members and volunteers", noted Didier Cherpitel. Many European Societies are working to have at least one person in each household trained in basic first aid in their respective countries. Millions of deaths around the world from road accidents, diarrhoeal diseases and cardio-vascular diseases could easily be prevented if the Federation's goal of having ten per cent of the world's population trained in first aid by the year 2010 were reached. More than 13 million people die each year from infectious diseases and a further one million in road accidents.

"First aid is not just about responding to injury and disease, it is also about preventing them," says Dr. Eric Bernes, in charge of first aid programmes at the Federation Secretariat in Geneva. "Training people to cope with diarrhoea without any information related to hygiene and to protecting wells or springs, is unrealistic. The same is true of teaching a motorcylist about taking care of an unconscious casualty without pointing out that wearing a helmet is a good preventive measure."
Being trained in and providing first aid also has additional benefits to saving lives. "It is the difference between apathy and empathy, indifference and solidarity," he adds.

Created in 1989, and enlarged to include all European Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 1996, the European First Aid network was crucial in the harmonisation of first aid gestures across the continent, and the subsequent creation of the European First Aid Certificate. Today, if a person successfully completes a first aid course in Russia or Iceland, his or her diploma is recognized in France or Italy.

Since 1999 a European First Aid Day (coordinated by the European Reference Centre) has been increasingly celebrated, not only in Europe, but across the world. More and more Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies use it to promote first aid as an easy-to-learn and inexpensive way to promote healthy lifestyles and to save lives, not just in times of crisis, but also in daily emergencies. This year, it will be held on September 13. First Aid competitions bring together teams from all over the world each year, and the European Union Road Safety Campaign is garnering more and more support from governments, appalled at the number of preventable severe injuries and deaths on the roads.

Founded in 1996, the centre was initially hosted by the Belgian Red Cross.

Related Links:

First Aid Day 2002

French Red Cross