American Heart Association shifts message to focus on prevention

DALLAS: The American Heart Association is addressing prevention and ideal heart health in a national campaign for the first time.

DALLAS: The American Heart Association is addressing prevention and ideal heart health in a national campaign for the first time.

Previous campaigns have concentrated on providing information about how to manage risk factors of heart disease, said Matthew Bannister, EVP of communications for American Heart Association (AHA).

“What we've done with this campaign is said, ‘Yes, heart disease and stroke are difficult diagnoses,'” said Clyde Yancy, president of the AHA. “‘We should be cognizant of the risk, but it is probably more worthwhile for all of the community to embrace a message of health.'”

On January 20, the Dallas-based nonprofit released a list of seven steps that focus on exercise, diet, and smoking and its new goal to improve heart health by 20% in Americans by 2020. It met its 2010 goal to reduce death caused by heart disease and stroke by 25%, but fell short on its goals for reducing risk, said Bannister.

"That's why for this 10 years we have to focus more on risk," he said. "We're going to live with this goal for the next 10 years, and it's really going to drive everything the organization's going to do.”

AHA integrated the campaign's messaging into the AHA's Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels. It also launched a microsite called My Life Check, which has health assessment tests and information about making lifestyle changes.

Edelman, a long-time PR agency for the AHA, is providing support on digital strategy, communications platform development, messaging, and audience identification, said Bannister. Media relations is handled in-house.

“The people we need to talk to for this campaign specifically are people who... have not yet developed risk factors for heart disease,” he said. “The challenge is now that we want to stop it before it ever happens.”

The campaign is primarily targeting women and healthcare providers through media relations, social media outreach, and partnerships with other nonprofits, government agencies, and corporations.

It is also reaching out to AHA employees and volunteers through an existing internal Web site with toolkits, access to a scientific paper about prevention and heart health, and a video town hall.

Bannister said the budget for the campaign is less than $100,000.

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