AHA’s Renewed and Stronger Commitment to Stroke
In the scientific and medical community’s “battle” against stroke, the American Heart Association has for several decades been at the front lines, particularly in research and professional and public education. As the AHA’s new president, I am proud to report to my colleagues with an interest in stroke that the association is devoting more of its resources to this nation’s leading cause of disability and third leading cause of death.
The AHA’s funding of stroke- related research soon will be strengthened by a $7.5 million grant to the association from the Bugher Foundation. This 6-year grant, specifically for stroke-related research, is the result of a proposal that the AHA made earlier this year to the Bugher Foundation, which previously has supported the association’s molecular biology research centers. The specific objective of the new awards will be to stimulate investigation of the basic biology of brain blood vessels in order to collect foundation information that will support the development of better stroke prevention measures and better stroke interventions in the future. More specific information will be available in November from AHA’s Division of Research Administration.
The AHA, which has been spending $35 million annually on stroke-related research, is second only to the federal government in the amount of funds for research related to stroke. The AHA also publishes the premiere peer-reviewed scientific journal on stroke, Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. First published in 1970, Stroke is one of the association’s 5 journals. We also sponsor the AHA International Joint Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation, the world’s most important scientific meeting on stroke research.
In addition to those research-related activities, AHA produces educational materials in the form of videos, slide sets, books, fact sheets, posters, and brochures, as well as an internet site on stroke. These materials are for physicians and other health professionals, the public as well as stroke survivors and their family members. Among the educational resources for health professionals are the popular slide programs, the AHA Stroke Lecture Series. Many of the readers of this journal are likely to be familiar with the slide series as well as AHA’s other professional educational materials. Perhaps less well known to the readers of this journal are AHA’s educational resources for nonscientists and nonhealth professionals.
Unique to AHA is a national outreach program, called Stroke Connection, for stroke survivors and their families. The cornerstones of this program, which is guided by a volunteer group of stroke survivors, are a toll-free “warmline” (1-800-553-6321) and the Stroke Connection magazine. The warmline, answered by volunteers and staff, is a referral service offering support to survivors, family members, and caregivers. Callers are often family members with practical questions about stroke recovery. In addition to distributing the brochures, videos, and other materials that the AHA has produced about stroke, the warmline staff refers callers to the networking opportunities at the 1600 stroke clubs in this country. Often callers to the warmline are stroke survivors, and it is helpful that volunteers who have had a stroke often answer the telephone. Stroke Connection magazine, which is published bimonthly, includes articles by and about stroke survivors that provide encouragement, secondary prevention messages, and daily life assistance tips to more than 12 000 subscribers and 13 000 outreach partners.
A focus on stroke certainly is not new to the AHA. Since 1989, stroke has been part of the association’s mission statement: “to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”
Two years ago, the association’s commitment to stroke was evaluated and renewed, and the volunteer and staff leaders voted to strengthen that commitment. One result was the formation of an internal Stroke Division, a “virtual” team of staff members from each of AHA’s major departments, from advocacy to research administration. This new division coordinates AHA’s stroke efforts and insures that stroke is a part of all association programs. An advisory group of stroke survivors, neurologists, and other health professionals who specialize in stroke works with the division staff. Ms J.E. Paisley, a stroke survivor, and Dr Edgar Kenton, a neurologist, are 2 of the members of the advisory group and are members of the AHA’s national board of directors. Several members of the advisory group as well as AHA staff leaders have established collaborations or working relationships with other organizations with a focus on stroke. They include the American Academy of Neurology, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Stroke Association. Indeed, AHA has played a major role in the academy’s “Brain Matters” educational campaign on stroke that is aimed primarily at health professionals.
A new and very promising initiative of the Stroke Division are the Metro Stroke Task Forces, which are designed to improve awareness about the warning signs of stroke and the crucial need for emergency response. During the past year, the Stroke Division evaluated the Metro Stroke Task Force concept in 5 cities (Birmingham, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Sacramento, and San Antonio). In each city, the local AHA affiliate volunteers and staff established a coalition of local healthcare professionals, allied health providers, civic leaders, and representatives of community organizations. Because the results during this first year were so positive, the Stroke Division will extend the Metro Stroke Task Force program to 15 additional cities this year.
During my presidency of the AHA, stroke will be high on my personal agenda as well as the agenda of the organization. AHA does more on stroke-related research, education, and public awareness than many people in the “stroke medical community” realize. However, it can do more. And it will.
- Copyright © 1998 by American Heart Association