Letter from the Chief Executive Officer

Nancy Brown
Nancy Brown, CEO

It’s been said that adversity doesn’t define who you are; it reveals who you are. And fiscal year 2020-21 tested our mettle through the worst pandemic in a century combined with social unrest not seen since the sixties. 

Through it all, the American Heart Association emerged with renewed passion and purpose — raising $1 billion in revenue for the first time in our history, to meet needs in communities nationwide. 

We were Made for This Moment

When COVID-19 hit U.S. shores, we galvanized around heart and stroke patients, caregivers and under-resourced populations. Within 30 days, the AHA funded rapid response research on the heart and brain impact of the virus, developed training for frontline health care workers on airway management of COVID-19 patients and stood up the COVID-19 CVD Registry.

Powered by our Get With the Guidelines® platform, the registry helps researchers understand, track and develop treatments for the virus by accessing 58,570 deidentified patient records at 182 participating medical facilities spanning over 170,000 serial lab days.

As the pandemic evolved, we met people where they were — launching the Don’t Die of Doubt campaign to underscore the importance of calling 911 in an emergency and spurring a return to routine care with Doctor, It’s Been Too Long. We also supported the Ad Council’s national campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, we continued building on our bedrock of science with donor support — establishing Strategically Focused Research Networks in health technologies, hemorrhagic stroke and cardio oncology and funding studies in women’s heart health, hypertension, heart failure, teen vaping, brain health and more.

We awarded the first rounds of grant funding from Research Goes Red, a collaboration of the AHA Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine, Go Red for Women and Verily’s Project Baseline to engage more women in clinical trials. Studies now underway will help scientists understand heart disease in young women from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and how menopausal weight changes affect cardiovascular health.

The disparate impact of chronic disease in communities of color and rural populations prompted the AHA to sharpen its focus on equity by setting a 2024 Impact Goal of advancing cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality. In pursuit of that goal, we made 10 Commitments, which we are systematically fulfilling through investments, advocacy, innovation and engagement.

Among those commitments is driving community impact through stepped-up investments in the AHA Social Impact Fund and the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund. Grants aid local organizations shattering barriers to health equity by increasing access to nutrition, housing, mental and physical health care, education and economic opportunity.

As we mark 40 years of AHA Advocacy, we helped pass or defend more than 100 state and local laws in 2020-21 and promoted federal policies expanding access to care, prohibiting surprise medical billing, upholding patient protections in the Affordable Care Act and more.

Many legislative wins were led by Voices for Healthy Kids — from inspiring the nation’s first Healthy Kids’ Meals Bill applying to both foods and drinks, to influencing Missouri and Oklahoma to become the first states since the pandemic to expand Medicaid.

From coast to coast, in every community served by the American Heart Association, staff and supporters met the challenges of the year with courage, creativity and collaboration.

Together, we are fierce — a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. Thank you for your continued support and dedication to our mission.

With heart,

Nancy Brown