Our Response to COVID-19

How the American Heart Association is making an impact during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

The American Heart Association is working with researchers, medical experts, community leaders, businesses, families and more to reduce the impact of the coronavirus. The following are some ways we’re dedicating our resources to make a difference. Find updated information on the coronavirus and what heart disease and stroke patients should do to protect themselves

We’re investing a minimum of $2.5 million to investigate the cardiovascular implications of coronavirus.

The Association has established a $2.5 million rapid research fund to fast-track scientific research to better understand COVID-19 and its interaction with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.

COVID-19, like most in the coronavirus family, is mostly a disease of the respiratory system. But reports are showing that people with high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity who have heart disease or survived a stroke may be more vulnerable to serious complications as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, there are reports of infected people without underlying complications who are developing deadly arrhythmias from infection and inflammation that damage heart muscle and this may further illustrate a critical relationship between COVID-19 and the cardiovascular system. 

We are helping to accelerate antiviral drugs to combat COVID-19.

The American Heart Association is working with Lawrence Livermore National Labs on the protein atlas developed through the AHA Center for Accelerated Discovery to help speed discovery of therapeutic antibodies or antiviral drugs for the virus that causes COVID-19. A searchable data portal is now available to share its COVID-19 research with scientists worldwide. The portal houses a wealth of data gathered from ongoing COVID-19 molecular design projects, particularly the computer-based “virtual” screening of small molecules and designed antibodies that may be used to design drugs to fight the virus.

We are leveraging our science and relationships to help lead the conversation about the coronavirus and how it affects at-risk patients.

The American Heart Association will be monitoring and convening experts as needed to ensure timely and accurate dissemination of the latest evidence regarding care for heart disease and stroke patients who contract COVID-19 – for the public, patients, caregivers and health care professionals.

We will continue to collaborate with national and global health colleagues to address clinical care issues as they arise for people with cardiovascular disease. In addition, the Association’s family of 12 scientific journals is publishing the latest research related to COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease to help scientists and clinicians from around the world.

Our science volunteers are producing manuscripts that provide direction and support to health care providers and researchers as they seek to control the spread of the virus and care for patients, while working to find cures.

We have launched a COVID-19 data challenge to determine how the risk of COVID-19 is impacted by other health conditions, health disparities and/or social determinants of health. Participants analyze over 100 datasets democratized on the AHA Precision Medicine Platform and have the option to bring their own data to address these important questions. All participants are provided a secure workspace to conduct the analyses on the Precision Medicine Platform.

We are meeting the needs of health care workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Our health care workers are on the front lines of this pandemic, and we are working with them to ensure they have the training and resources they need. In response to the shortage of trained ICU personnel for using ventilators, we rapidly launched free Oxygenation & Ventilation of the COVID-19 healthcare provider courses, which are now available worldwide. We have also added COVID-19 data elements and registry to our Get With The Guidelines® modules. The registry is an entirely new platform for data capture and research. The data from this registry will help hospitals and medical centers through research studies that will help treat future patients. To lower barriers to participation, AHA has made the COVID-19 CVD Registry available to all hospitals and health systems across the US at no charge.

In addition, we have collaborated with leading experts in cardiovascular, critical care and stroke medicine to develop a COVID-19 Clinical Guidance Series of podcasts. We have also developed a COVID-19 compendium page on Professional Heart Daily. Both the podcasts and compendium page share information with our health care providers who are on the front lines of patient care delivery. We have also established a COVID-19 Discussion Forum for Professionals. This allows health care professionals the opportunity to discuss the latest developments in scientific research and clinical practice regarding COVID-19 with peers or listen through our video series.

For many historic and cultural reasons, people can be reluctant, afraid or may be unable to go to the hospital, but heart attacks and strokes don’t stop for a global pandemic. Data from the CDC shows a 42% decrease in the number of people who went to the emergency room in the early days of the pandemic compared to the same time last year. In response, the American Heart Association launched Don’t Die of Doubt to help address an urgent community priority nationwide and to reinforce the idea that hospitals are still the safest place to be in event of a heart attack or stroke. The initiative features public service announcements, news articles, infographics and more that can be activated at the national and community level.

On the health technology side, we are working alongside a group of innovating companies that are focusing on remote-patient monitoring, as well as developing solutions to manage a hospital’s patient load. Since those with cardiovascular disease are among those most affected by COVID-19, we are developing a new clinical/industry advisory group to better support these individuals who become infected. In addition, we have recently launched the Doctors with Heart pilot, which will provide doctor-to-doctor cardiovascular consultations to underserved communities via telemedicine. These populations are at greater risk for heart disease, thus making them more likely to suffer serious complications should they contract COVID-19.

We are teaching hospitals and communities how to safely and effectively administer CPR during the coronavirus pandemic.

While the world’s attention is on the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact remains that more than 366,000 people in the United States will suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest this year. To support our nearly 400,000 CPR Training Network instructors, we have established interim guidance, resources for any continued in-person training given social distancing, and recommend extension to provider and instructor cards. While training was not possible due to the pandemic.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Heart Association, along with several leading health organizations, has developed new CPR interim guidance to help rescuers treat victims of cardiac arrest with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. This ground-breaking guidance provides the best possible chance for survival without compromising the safety of the rescuers.For individuals and health care providers, we have established this website with CPR training-related resources and information. We are using social media campaigns to encourage individuals to use revised Hands-Only CPR approach if they encounter a victim of cardiac arrest. 

We are advocating for policies that ensure families nationwide have access to care, frontline health workers have the ability to care for people with medical needs and charitable organizations can continue their life-changing work.

We strongly supported provisions of congressional legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic that move our priorities forward by:
  • Ensuring everyone can access coronavirus testing and increasing the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Providing relief to hospitals, increasing funding for community health centers and strengthening the public health infrastructure.
  • Strengthening federal child nutrition programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Increasing federal Medicaid funding to ease the financial strain on states.
  • Increasing charitable giving incentives and nonprofit eligibility for federal loans.

We are urging governors and state legislatures to take immediate steps to:

  • Provide access to the more than 4.4 million more Americans that could have health coverage if their state expanded Medicaid.
  • Promote good health and generate funds for critical health and wellness programs by increasing taxes on tobacco products and sugary drinks.
  • Ensure tobacco cessation services are available to all who want to quit.
  • Support state investments in healthy foods under SNAP.
  • Reject efforts to preempt local governments from policymaking that promotes public health .

In addition, we are:

  • Engaging our You’re the Cure grassroots network in support of these efforts. Our current call to action asks Congress to ensure nonprofits large and small can continue their life-changing work during and after the pandemic.
  • Innovating to meet the urgent needs of communities through our Voices for Healthy Kids COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants, which will assist nonprofit organizations helping the most stressed communities nationwide.
  • Working with global partners to call for a coordinated and equitable response to COVID-19 that includes multilateral approaches to address global health and development.

We're working to ensure the greatest needs of communities are prioritized, including access to care, financial support, proper nourishment, and physical activity.

The health and economic crisis is taking a toll on many families, especially those with limited resources. Through our Social Impact Fund Investees, we are filling in the cracks not covered by government services while providing life-sustaining support for under-resourced communities. Some examples include increasing support for families living in public housing that are struggling to pay rent due to missed paychecks or layoffs, providing daycare and mental health services for struggling parents, and delivering healthy foods to the elderly and disadvantaged who cannot travel outside.

We have hosted more than 50 virtual Community Conversations to reach thousands of community partners and engaged citizens. The topics range from volunteer strategies to how best to serve community members with specific needs. In addition to being shared in English, some of these conversations have been shared in Spanish and Mandarin.

Through the EmPOWERED and Well Online Church Challenge, we are offering innovative health solutions to faith communities who either may not be able to meet or are observing social distancing.

Our local teams are working with partners to ensure they continue to nourish families, support physical activity and reduce the burden of chronic disease during these difficult times. As schools across the country close, we are striving to support the countless school districts and other providers working to ensure that the 30 million children who depend on school meals continue to have access to those meals. We are also supporting early care and education providers in continuing to provide high quality care while connecting them with resources to address limitations and changing enrollment.

To help with shortages of goods, services and solutions due to COVID-19, the American heart Association developed the Beneficial Business Exchange - a virtual goods, services and solutions community exchange. Here organizations and companies can post and view needs, offer available resources, good and services, and make connections to meet those needs.

We are working with parents and teachers to keep kids healthy and active while away from school.

With the pandemic putting traditional classroom-based education on hold, the American Heart Association quickly responded with resources for parents and teachers to keep children active and engaged in healthy behaviors. Through the Kids Heart Challenge, we have developed the Kick Cabin Fever to the Curb 10-day Challenge that’s designed to get kids up and moving while home. This campaign uses virtual rallies, social media and more to keep kids interested, -- and helping parents and teachers.

We are providing businesses with essential resources to help their employees stay healthy and active.

When businesses moved to more work-from-home strategies, the American Heart Association rapidly adapted resources to meet the ever-changing needs of the workforce. These resources include a library of materials that encourage physical activity while working from home, stress management and healthy cooking recipes with shelf-stable foods. For companies participating in our Workplace Health program, My Life Check home test kits are available for employees to participate in health screenings, and employees can continue to participate in their digital coaching program.

We are meeting people where they are by providing the resources they need.

As people adapt to new ways of living, the American Heart Association stands ready to create and curate engaging content for individuals to be more aware and share. We will continue to deliver quick, simple and actionable ideas that increase a person’s overall health and well-being. These tools are centered to serve three primary groups: people who are not quarantined and cannot stay at home because they have an essential job or role, those who are adopting to a new way of life at home but are not sick, and those who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and have cardiovascular disease..

We’re committed to supporting our heart and stroke patients, and their caregivers, by providing a network of resources and emotional support. Our website (heart.org) is full of information for patients and individuals around the connection between COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease, and we will continue to update this information with specific information for various heart conditions. In addition, the Support Network provides an opportunity for patients and their caregivers to engage online with others and find emotional support in a time of social isolation. For those not online, our staff is available to answer questions using our toll-free number (1-800-242-8721).

We’re in This Together

Those who are fighting heart disease and stroke are more susceptible to coronavirus and more likely to develop severe symptoms. With your support today, we can help keep them healthy and safe.