The American Heart Association is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Founded by six cardiologists in 1924, our organization now includes more than 40 million volunteers and supporters, as well as more than 2800 employees.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide. Stroke ranks second globally and is a leading cause of severe disability. Some form of cardiovascular disease affects more than one in every three adult Americans. Many are seriously burdened by disabilities. To fight these diseases, we fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and provide critical tools and information to save and improve lives.
Every person deserves the opportunity for a full, healthy life. As champions for health equity, by 2024, the American Heart Association will advance cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality.
For years we've been striving to ensure everyone has an optimal, just opportunity to be healthy. But this is not the reality for many people whose health suffers because of social factors beyond their control. In fact, people in some under-resourced ZIP codes have shorter life expectancies than their neighbors just a few miles away. And people in often-remote rural areas face significantly higher death rates from heart disease and stroke.
COVID-19 has illuminated these unacceptable health disparities and worsened the problems. The pandemic and economic hardships have disproportionately harmed the health of Black, Latino and Native American people. That's why our 2024 Impact Goal affirms our focus on identifying and removing barriers to health equity.
The American Heart Association strives towards health equity for a simple reason: Lives are at stake. People suffer when they lack access to quality care, nutritious food, and other basic health needs. Without opportunities to enjoy full, healthy lives, people often get sicker and die younger.
The American Heart Association provides public health education and awareness in a variety of ways. We are the nation's leader in CPR education and training. We help people understand the importance of healthy lifestyle choices. We provide science-based treatment guidelines for healthcare professionals to help them give quality care to their patients. We educate lawmakers, policymakers and the public as we advocate for changes to protect and improve the health of our communities.
Our volunteer experts select the scientific research most worthy of funding - with great results. The American Heart Association has invested more than $4 billion in research, more than any organization outside the federal government. We have funded 14 Nobel Prize winners and many lifesaving research advances such as the first artificial heart valve, cholesterol-lowering drugs, heart transplantation, and CPR techniques.