Changing Policy

“Give people what they need: food, medicine, clean air, pure water, trees and grass, pleasant homes to live in, some hours of work, more hours of leisure. Don’t ask who deserves it. Every human being deserves it.” —Howard Zinn

Since 2010, 18.2 million people in the U.S. have gained health care coverage, largely due to the Affordable Care Act. Yet affordable health care remains a major issue. By recent estimates, 30.4 million people nationwide are uninsured, and another 44 million people are “underinsured.”

The AHA is fighting for these people. We released new Principles on Health Care Reform, a blueprint to ensuring health care is adequate, accessible and affordable, and continue to advocate for expanded coverage for all people living in the United States. We joined other national health organizations in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in California v. Texas, urging the Supreme Court to preserve key provisions and patient protections of the Affordable Care Act. During COVID-19, we urged states to ensure Americans receive affordable health care by establishing special enrollment periods to allow people to purchase health insurance on state marketplaces.

We’re also doubling down on our commitment to patients in rural communities. Rural residents face a 40% higher prevalence of heart disease and a 30% increased risk of death from stroke compared to their urban neighbors. In a presidential advisory published in Circulation, the AHA issued a call to action to make rural populations a priority in policy, systems and services.

Saving lives from tobacco use and nicotine addiction remains paramount. Lungs blackened by cigarette tar and a heart patient’s zipper incision are among 13 graphic warning labels for cigarette packages and advertisements proposed by the Food and Drug Administration to deter tobacco use. The FDA’s proposed rule is a direct result of a lawsuit we filed to compel the FDA to comply with provisions of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

Students from Townsend Harris HS with their signs calling out Big Vape
Students from Townsend Harris HS
with their signs calling out Big Vape

In January, youth in schools across the United States hosted #QuitLying Day activities, where students called out the e-cigarette industry for its deception about vaping. QuitLying youth engagement events in 106 school districts reached over 50,000 students and staff. We also facilitated community dialogues across the country to raise awareness about the crisis of youth nicotine use and addiction, and to identify partnerships and solutions to combat youth vaping. There were 42 of these dialogues reaching 55,350 people.

From birth to 5 years, children get much of their nutrition in what they drink. New recommendations from leading health organizations, including the AHA, can help parents and caregivers make informed choices. Children 5 and younger should avoid flavored milk, non-dairy milk (like almond and rice), caffeinated drinks and beverages sweetened with sugar or sugar substitutes.

Our science and public policy successes were on display during the World Congress of Cardiology & Cardiovascular Health. Discussions focused on the global burden of atrial fibrillation (a rapid, irregular heartbeat) and underscored the work of the AHA’s Strategically Focused Research Networks.

And for the first time, mental health and neurological disorders were topics during the United Nations’ High-level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases. Participants proposed more robust laws and fiscal measures banning tobacco, restricting alcohol advertising, reducing alcohol use, increasing access to healthy foods and taxing sugary drinks.