Letter from the President and the Chairman of the Board

Bertram L Scott
Bertram L. Scott
Chairman of the Board
Robert Harrington
Robert A. Harrington
M.D., FAHA President

COVID-19 has made this a year like no other for the American Heart Association. The pandemic presents enormous challenges we are meeting with intelligence, passion and engagement, expressed in our core domains of science, advocacy and community.

Ciencia

COVID-19 remains a mysterious threat to American lives. Only knowledge can dispel the uncertainty and fear it engenders, and the AHA is helping shine a light by funding research and supporting education efforts to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives. We have:

  • Launched the Don’t Die of Doubt campaign to remind people that, despite the pandemic, hospitals are still the safest place to be when a medical emergency occurs. That includes suspected heart attacks or strokes.
  • Added a COVID-19 registry CVD registry to Get With the Guidelines to allow medical professionals on the front lines to contribute to the latest research and better understand the effects of the coronavirus on the heart and brain. We’re also learning more about the effects of COVID-19 so we can find better treatments for patients.
  • Developed and promoted interim CPR guidelines to help rescuers treat victims of cardiac arrest who might have COVID-19. RQI Partners’ We Can Help program lets hospitals safely continue their CPR training online.
  • Supplemented the Health Technologies and Innovation Strategically Focused Research Network with $800,000 million to study the cardiovascular implications of the disease.
  • Established a $2.5 million rapid-research fund to fast-track scientific research to better understand COVID-19 and its interaction with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.
  • Awarded $1.6 million in grants to 22 institutions across 16 states, Puerto Rico and the Lummi Nation in Washington state. Learn more about our efforts to help communities challenged by COVID-19.
  • Launched a COVID-19 data challenge on the AHA Precision Medicine Platform to examine the relationships between COVID-19, other health conditions, health disparities and/or social determinants of health.
  • Shared technologies — specifically, a drug discovery pipeline, scalable virtual screening, machine learning algorithms and a draft database — created by the AHA Center for Accelerated Drug Discovery with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to apply to a global COVID-19 response.

Advocacy

The pandemic exacerbated historic social and economic divisions at the core of health disparities among people of color, with Black, Hispanic and Indigenous people suffering disproportionate impact from COVID-19. The AHA is contributing — forcefully and effectively — to public discussion of racism and health equity. We have:

  • Confirmed that health equity is central to our mission in two AHA Presidential Advisories: a statement of principles on the importance of available, affordable care; and a statement to address inadequacies specific to rural America.
  • Identified structural racism as a public health scourge following the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — and the senseless shootings of Jacob Blake and countless other Black Americans.
  • Promoted expansion of Medicaid benefits and supported wellness programs.
  • Launched a multimillion-dollar initiative to discourage children and young adults from vaping. This includes nearly $17 million in grants to accelerate research on nicotine addiction among youth, plus research on cessation.
  • Supported the passage of federal legislation increasing the sales age of tobacco products to 21.

Community

In an era of social distancing, the AHA strives to knit people together through innovative programs that fuse common purpose and entrepreneurial spirit. We have:

  • Established the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund to support community-inspired solutions to health inequities. Tyson, who died suddenly last fall, was a friend, colleague and inspiration to all of us on the Board of Directors.
  • Promoted healthy living at African-American houses of faith, in-person and virtually, with the EmPOWERED and Well Healthier Church Challenge.
  • Seeded distressed communities with hope through the Social Impact Fund, which has invested $3 million in 19 organizations breaking down barriers to healthy living.

We’re very proud of how the AHA has risen to these extraordinary times, contributing meaningful solutions through science and advocacy, and remaining true to its guiding values.


With gratitude,

Bertram L. Scott Chairman of the Board, 2019-21

Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA President, 2019-20