The American Heart Association’s official guidelines on cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care are some of the most respected around the world, not just in the United States. Their mission to save lives and prevent heart disease and stroke begins with up-to-date and reliable research and ends with hands-on education on an international scale. Tools, services and training are made available by the Association to healthcare workers, patients and the public alike because saving lives is everyone’s problem.
In this interview with Research Outreach, American Heart Association’s Chief of Mission Aligned Businesses and Healthcare Solutions, John Meiners, tells us more about the Association’s key strategies and how they aim to carry these out.
Can you tell us more about the American Heart Association (AHA) in terms of its background, history and core mission?
Can you tell us more about your role and responsibilities at AHA?
Our Patient Quality Systems Improvement team works to improve outcomes for patients by putting knowledge into practice. We do this by converting scientific research into treatment guidelines, then translating guidelines into clinical processes that take patient population characteristics into account. We help healthcare providers and patients achieve improved health with evidence-based information and tools for heart failure, stroke, blood pressure and cholesterol management through quality improvement initiatives and certification programmes.
The Workplace Health department offers a suite of science-based, evidence-informed tools and services to help build and maximise an effective workplace culture of health, which can increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and control healthcare costs.
Our International team collaborates with governments and non-governmental organisations to adapt successful solutions from the United States to extend the quality and lives of communities elsewhere.
Can you tell us what your global lifesaving programmes are and how the AHA works with many partners, across many countries to address the issue of non-communicable diseases and help save more lives?
The American Heart Association system of care approach – in coordination with local cardiovascular societies, heart and brain health advocates, business and government leaders – now drives global heart and brain health at all levels of society around the world.
In support of a country’s health priorities, we provide our technical expertise and experience in developing both patient and public programmes to improve the quality and length of people’s lives. With our partners, we share the best in science with people around the world through our annual Scientific Sessions, International Stroke Conference and ten speciality conferences, and by supporting joint science sessions with other countries’ cardiology societies at their local meetings.
We create educational programmes and tools that help people improve their health, such as Go Red For Women®, which educates women about their greatest health risk, cardiovascular disease, and is now promoted in more than 40 countries. We help improve hospital systems of care with programmes like Get with the Guidelines and Saving Children’s Lives in Botswana, Tanzania and India, an initiative designed to empower community health workers with skills to reduce under-fives mortality in low to middle-income areas.
We train 22 million people around the world annually – from advanced healthcare providers and corporate employees to new parents – in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and advanced life support. And, we advocate for stronger public health policies that support improved nutrition availability, obesity reduction initiatives and improved hospital treatment and systems of care.
The American Heart Association’s mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.
The Association is a strategic partner with the World Heart Federation and celebrates World Heart Day on 29th September – can you tell us about this collaboration, what this World Heart day consists of and its global impact?
The American Heart Association encourages everyone to learn how to perform CPR. Can you tell us why this is so important?
Statistics prove that if more people knew CPR, more lives could be saved. When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately receiving CPR from someone nearby. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. It is also a fact that most cardiac arrests happen at home so if you need to give CPR in an emergency, you will most likely be trying to save the life of someone you love: a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend.
The American Heart Association is the leader in resuscitation science, education and training, and publisher of the official AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC. How are the Association’s guidelines helping save lives around the world?
When international training centres open, they know that they will be teaching reliable, proven techniques/skills/medications to their students. When a health minister in China comes to us asking if we can teach resuscitation to 10% of their population, it is because they have done their homework and recognise that the Association guidelines are developed in a rigorous way, and our business processes are uncompromising with the patients survival and full recovery as the critical outcome.
This system of care approach drives global heart and brain health at all levels of society around the world.
What are the plans for the American Heart Association next year?
For more than 90 years, we have focused on treating cardiovascular disease. Over the last decade, we have turned our attention to preventing cardiovascular events. That effort requires improving health factors and risks that contribute to not just cardiovascular disease but many others including cancer and diabetes, so we find ourselves focusing increasingly on total health. Over the next decade, we will address overall health and well-being, anchored in cardiovascular and brain health, as well as health equity across all populations.
Additionally, we are seeking a paradigm shift in hospital resuscitation practice. Poor quality CPR is a preventable harm, and timely delivery of high-quality CPR is the greatest determinant of survival from cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, even with trained professionals, poor quality CPR is common. Advances in technology and evidence now show that low-dose, high-frequency psycho-motor training is significantly more effective at increasing and maintaining CPR competency, and that resuscitation quality improvement initiatives are both necessary and effective at saving lives of cardiac arrest patients in the hospital.
Developed through our strategic relationship with Laerdal, and launched in February 2015, the Resuscitation Quality Improvement programme develops high-quality resuscitation skills through low-dose, high-frequency CPR skills practice and high-fidelity coaching. Validated by early evidence on actual patient care and survival, more lives are being saved.
- To find out more about the American Heart Association, visit www.heart.org/en/