American Heart Association History

In 1915 a group of pioneering social workers and physicians formed an Association for the Relief and Prevention of Heart Disease. They were in New York City and were concerned over the lack of information about heart disease. Back in the early 20th century, heart disease patients were thought of as being doomed with nothing but complete bed rest.

Studies were performed by the physicians and social workers in both Boston and New York to see if heart patients could return to work. Other groups that were conducting studies similar to this one formed in Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago to form other heart associations during the 1920s.

Because of such interest across the United States the need for a national organization was recognized in order to research and further study the disease. In 1924, six cardiologists that represented a number of different organizations and groups formed the American Heart Association.

By the late '30s, the members of the association started to see how they could expand in order to reach the public. The American Legion, in 1946 donated over $50,000 to the American Heart Association to develop a community program for rheumatic fever. Support from the public and other funds established the program as well as others.

The AHA went under reorganization in 1948 and took in non-medical volunteers to help with communication, business management, community organization, public education and fund raising. The :Truth or Consequences" show helped to bring the AHA to the public's eye in 1948 with a show about the Walking Man. Contributions were received from millions of people and the effort was able to raise $1.75 million. The Walking Man was later identified as entertainer Jack Benny.

The association grew quickly from that point on and in 1975 relocated its headquarters to Dallas, Texas to better serve the system nationwide. The AHA continued throughout its history to be the public's number one advocate against smoking and its risk to an individual's health.


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