AHA’s New Strategic Impact Goal Designed to Curb Epidemic of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke
At a time when many of us are looking toward a new century—even a new millennium—the American Heart Association is also entering a new era. This one is based on a strategic vision that could lead to significant progress in the fight against heart disease and stroke.
It will be an era made possible by the foresight of AHA leaders who in the mid-1990s set a new course for the association with the implementation of what is known as the 21st Century Project. Completion of that project ensures that in the years ahead, the AHA will be a strong and vibrant organization not afraid to explore new paths in its quest to reduce death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Specifically, we propose reducing coronary heart disease, stroke, and risk by 25% by 2008.
The commitment to do just that was formally approved last summer at the annual meeting of the AHA’s Delegate Assembly. Whether we are successful will depend on how well we carry out 3 impact strategies. Two of them relate to health, while the third centers on resources.
The first strategy calls for enhancing prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The specific action goal to carry out the strategy says, “By 2003, of the people at risk, the American Heart Association will double the percentage who will effectively reduce risk factors to goal levels as established by the AHA Guidelines for Primary and Secondary Prevention.” As a result, the organization will focus primarily on the risk factors of smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and physical inactivity.
The second impact strategy calls for improving the chain of survival and acute care treatment. To do that, this action goal must be met: “By 2003, for patients suffering from sudden death, acute myocardial infarction and stroke, the American Heart Association will increase the percentage who receive the appropriate treatment within the recommended timeframe from the onset of symptoms.”
More specifically, these will entail the following:
At least 20% of Americans suffering from cardiac arrest will receive emergency treatment within 6 minutes of the onset of the attack;
At least 20% of the people suffering a stroke will get to a hospital <3 hours after the beginning of the stroke; and
At least 90% of those suffering an acute myocardial infarction will receive treatment in <6 hours, with 20% to be treated in <1 hour.
The AHA’s third impact strategy calls for generating sufficient resources to achieve its health-related goals. That strategy will be accomplished by maximizing volunteer, staff, customer, financial, and knowledge resources.
These goals and strategies represent a major shift in priorities for the AHA in an effort to reach more people who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
Two factors have made it possible for us to take this new path. First, advances in the detection and treatment of heart disease and stroke have vastly improved in recent years. Technology advances, particularly in the chain of survival, make it possible to save more lives or to lessen the damage from myocardial infarction and some types of stroke. Those advances are usually effective, however, only if patients understand the need for quick reaction to a cardiovascular emergency and if the community in which they reside has the appropriate facilities to handle such emergencies. As a result, the AHA is establishing goals and strategies that state, for example, that by 2003, emergency medical systems and appropriate acute-care facilities will be in compliance with AHA-recommended guidelines for stroke, acute myocardial infarction, and sudden death in 125 targeted communities. That includes implementing appropriate acute intervention programs. One way to meet that target date, the AHA believes, is to increase the availability of automated external defibrillators nationwide as well as training in the use of these lifesaving devices for firefighters, police officers, and ambulance and other emergency personnel.
The second factor that led the AHA to redirect its resources and efforts in these new directions was the completion of a major reorganization as part of the 21st Century Project, which led to the merger of our 50-plus state organizations into 15 regional affiliates. As a result, the AHA is now a more united organization that speaks with one voice, enabling us to work together more cooperatively in such major undertakings.
All of these goals and strategies will mean new ways, new challenges, and new opportunities for AHA volunteers and staff across the country. But as the 20th century winds down, the organization has never had a better reason to hope for new and greater success in the fight against heart disease and stroke, 2 of America’s leading killers.
- Copyright © 1999 by American Heart Association