|The American Heart
Association is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to
reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
A pioneering group of physicians and social workers formed the first
Association for the Prevention and Relief of Heart Disease in New York
City in 1915. They were concerned about the lack of heart disease
information. At that time, heart disease patients were considered
doomed, limited to complete bed rest. So these physicians conducted
studies in New York City and Boston to find out whether heart disease
patients could safely return to work. Similar groups in Boston,
Philadelphia, and Chicago evolved into heart associations in the 1920s.
A small national staff in New York City then began to organize American
Heart Association divisions across the country. They launched the first
national fund-raising campaign the following year in February 1949,
raising $2.7 million.
Since 1949, the American Heart Association has grown rapidly in size,
financial resources, involvement with medical and non-medical
volunteers, and influence -- both nationally and internationally. The
AHA moved the National Center from New York City to Dallas in 1975 to
better serve affiliates and local divisions nationwide. The
volunteer-led affiliates and their divisions form a national network of
local AHA organizations involved in providing research, education, and
community programs and in raising money to support the association's
work. The network continues to gain strength as it expands at the
Finally, and most profoundly, AHA volunteers and staff began
transforming the organization into an enterprise that could be vibrant
and relevant in the 21st century. The change was deeper than anything
since 1948, when the AHA transformed itself from a scientific society
into a voluntary health agency. The first step was in identifying the
organization's strategic driving force in March 1995: Providing
credible heart disease and stroke information for effective prevention
Agreement on the driving force made it clear that individual Americans,
not the AHA's affiliates, were the National Center's primary audience.
The new driving force altered the whole organization, which can be seen
in the decision to become a single corporation in June 1997. This action
reinforced the spirit of cooperation that people brought to the effort.