Black cardiac arrest victims whose hearts stop outside of the hospital are less likely to receive CPR or shocks to the heart from bystanders, according to new research presented today.

Previous studies have shown that blacks are more likely to go into cardiac arrest than whites. Yet, in this study of nearly 4,000 Philadelphians, and other studies in the past, blacks still receive CPR and shocks less often.

Even among whites, only one-third received bystander CPR in the data released today. But, blacks, on the other hand, received CPR or shocks 28.7 percent of the time.

As far back as 1994, a study out of Memphis reported an even lower bystander CPR rate among blacks — less than 10 percent — compared to 20 percent among whites.

The reasons why this continues to happen is currently unknown.

“Understanding why the disparity exists will be the next step,” says Dr. Roger Band, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher on this project. “Then we have the ability to impact change.”

According to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of Americans feel helpless during cardiac emergencies due to insecurities about their CPR skills.

However, Band says anything is better than nothing.

“Doing these things can only help,” he says. “These are patients who won’t survive if nothing is done for them. You can help by at least trying.”

Both CPR and defibrillation have consistently been shown to improve survival after out-of-hospital cardiac arrests whether from a bystander or a trained professional, such as a paramedic. Bystander shocks can be administered using the automated external defibrillator machines — or AEDs — found in public places such as shopping malls and airports. The machines are simple to operate.

Band says even paramedics forget the importance of these basics.

“They focus on giving medications and other non-evidenced based things,” Band says. “Good quality CPR and early defibrillation are the basic tenets of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest care.”

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