Introduction: The World Health Organization recommends emergency care training for laypeople in low-resource settings, but the effects of these programs on patient outcomes and community health have not been systematically reviewed. Our objective was to identify the individual and community health effects of educating laypeople to deliver emergency care in low-resource settings. Methods: We conducted a systematic review to address this question: in low-resource populations (P), does emergency care education for laypeople (I) confer any measurable effect on patient morbidity and mortality, or community capacity and resilience for emergency health conditions (O), in comparison with no training or other education(C)? We searched 12 electronic databases and grey literature for quantitative studies. We conducted duplicate and independent title and abstract screening, methodological and outcomes extraction, and study quality assessment using the Effective Public Health Practice Tool. We developed a narrative summary of findings. (PROSPERO: CRD42014009685) Results: We reviewed 16,017 abstracts and 372 full-text papers. 38 met inclusion criteria. Most topically relevant papers were excluded because they assessed educational outcomes. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation training (6 papers) improved cardiac arrest survival and enhanced capacity to respond to cardiac arrest in rural Norway, Denmark and commercial aircraft operations. A public education campaign in remote Denmark improved absolute cardiac arrest survival by 5.4% (95%CI 2-12). Lay trauma training (12 papers) reduced absolute injury mortality and improved community capacity in Iraq, Cambodia, Iran and Indigenous New Zealand communities. A trauma care program in Iraq and Cambodia reduced absolute mortality by 25% (95%CI 17.2-33). Education for mothers on paediatric fevers in Ethiopia was associated with 40% relative reductions in under-5 mortality (95%CI 29.2-50.6). Similar training improved access to care for paediatric malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal disease in Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, and India (13 papers). Overdose education and naloxone distribution was associated with reductions in opioid overdose deaths (3 papers), including in Massachusetts where high-uptake communities for overdose education had significantly lower overdose fatality rates than no-uptake communities (rate ratio 0.54, 95%CI 0.39-0.76). Community education improved measures of access to emergency care for remote Indigenous populations in Canada, Alaska and Nepal (3 papers) and adolescent mental health capacity in Australia (1 paper). Studies were of low or medium quality. Conclusion: In addition to established interventions for injury and cardiac arrest, emergency care training can improve community capacity in underserviced populations, and save lives in opioid overdose, paediatric infectious disease and malnutrition.
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