Before the mid-1920s, people with heart disease were not provided many treatment options and were often put on complete bedrest for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, a couple of physicians didn’t agree that this was the only option, so they got together and conducted studies on heart disease, which eventually lead to the founding of the American Heart Association in 19241. Within a couple years, they were able to receive help from thousands of physicians and scientists to further expand the organization. In 1948, the AHA reorganized and transitioned from a scientific society to a voluntary health organization which included volunteers and the support of a professional staff. After moving their office from New York City to Dallas in 1975, volunteers in the organization formed a network of local organizations which provided research funding, education, community programs, and fundraising. The 1980s is when the organization started to put emphasis on advocating for the public’s health and began to promote the importance of staying active. By 2000, the organizations scientific findings began to move from laboratories and clinics to physician’s offices and to American households. 2000 was also the first year they established a 10-year Impact Goal for the entire nation which was to “reduce coronary heart disease, stroke and risk factors by 25 percent by 2010”. Their most recent goal created in 2010 was to “improve the cardiovascular health of the entire nation by 20 percent by 2020, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.”
The AHA’s mission is to improve the lives of all Americans. They focus on four core areas encompassing everything they intend to accomplish. These include community, health care, education, and research2. Within the community they advocate for smoke free public places, more walkable and bikeable streets, better nutrition and beneficial PE in schools, and affordable healthcare for all in hopes of not only a healthier community, but a longer living one. Healthcare is truly valued by the AHA and they strive to expand and build on it. They train the most Americans, out of any organization, in CPR, teaching more than 13 million people a year. In addition, they provide courses in advance life support, AED use, and first aid. Not only do they provide education to the general population, but they also provide educational resources for specific at risk populations including case initiatives and online tools. Some of the initiatives include Go Red for Women (heart disease), and Voice for Healthy Kids (fighting childhood obesity). Lastly, the AHA invests more than 132 billion a year in health and stroke research. Some of the research they have funded has led to important discoveries such as clot-buffering drugs and drug eluting stents2. These studies and findings that are published serve as important resources for healthcare providers to learn about advancements in the medical field.
As mentioned previously, the AHA provides a great deal of funding for research. Some of this funding is given through scholarships that they grant to students who are looking to do research in a related field. Specifically, these scholarships are given to students who want to do research related to cardiovascular disease, strokes, and the basic sciences during early pre-doctoral training3. An example of one of the scholarships they offer is the “Student Scholarship in Cardiovascular Surgery”. This scholarship provides one student with a $2,000 stipend to conduct their research as well as a $750 travel stipend to attend AHA Scientific Sessions. At the end of the study students are required to submit their reports with their results. These scholarships greatly benefit students looking to get more research experience as well as learn more about cardiovascular disease.
Today, the AHA continues to work towards being the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer health organization committed to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke1. With their current 22.5 million volunteers and support of 150 offices, their hard working efforts are sure to continue to bring great advancements in the medical field, as well as help to reduce cardiovascular disease and strokes throughout America.
- About the American Heart Association. American Heart Association Website. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/About-American-Heart_UCM_452487_Article.jsp#History. Published n.d. Updated November, 2015. Accessed March 2017
- What We Do. American Heart Association Website. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/What-We-Do-Generic_UCM_305680_SubHomePage.jsp. Published n.d Updated November, 2015. Accessed March 2017
- Scholarships in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. American Heart Association Website. https://professional.heart.org/professional/MembershipCouncils/ScientificCouncils/UCM_322561_Student-Scholarships-in-Cardiovascular-Disease-and-Stroke.jsp. Published n.d. Updated November, 2015. Accessed March, 2017.