DALLAS, Feb. 2, 2024 — Black Americans have the highest incidence of cardiac arrest outside of the hospital and are significantly less likely to survive. Cardiac arrest in Black neighborhoods is associated with alarmingly low treatment and survival rates and recent studies have shown lower rates of both bystander CPR and bystander AED use in these neighborhoods. Recognizing the unique intersection of American Heart Month and Black History Month, the American Heart Association, celebrating 100 years of service saving lives, marks the occasion by honoring three individuals for their work to improve access to equitable health and change health outcomes.
In ceremonies in New York City on Feb. 1 hosted by CBS News National Correspondent Michelle Miller, Buffalo Bills safety and cardiac arrest survivor Damar Hamlin received the Association’s Voice of the Mission Award, recognizing his historic efforts to spread awareness about the need for CPR education and providing opportunities for training particularly for young athletes. As the national ambassador for the American Heart Association’s Nation of Lifesavers™ initiative, he is committed alongside the American Heart Association to ensure everyone, everywhere is empowered with the lifesaving skill of CPR and has access to AEDs (automated external defibrillator) in their community, schools, workplaces and places of worship.
The Voice of the Mission award is one of the highest volunteer honors annually bestowed by the Association. It recognizes an individual who has made a major impact in driving awareness or education by using their voice to amplify the lifesaving mission of the American Heart Association. The recipient of this award must have demonstrated success at telling their personal story. The recipient must also have inspired others to take action.
“Damar Hamlin is an incredible role model for the next generation. He has turned his recovery into a meaningful journey that has led to thousands learning the lifesaving skill of CPR,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. “Together, the American Heart Association and Damar’s charity, the Chasing M’s Foundation, are turning a nation of bystanders into a nation of lifesavers with CPR and AED training.”
In addition, American Heart Association Impact with Heart Awards were also presented to two local community leaders who have developed and implemented specific local entrepreneurial innovative solutions that provide tools and resources to support both physical and mental well-being.
Andrew Suggs, a 2019 National EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator finalist, is the CEO & Founder of Live Chair Health in Baltimore. Through Live Chair, barbers are trained and equipped with cuffs to measure blood pressure, scales to check body mass index (BMI), and health risk assessments to detect clients’ likelihood of developing hypertension.
The concept for Live Chair Health was born in the chair of a Maryland barbershop in 2017, after Andrew’s father had congestive heart failure and three cardiac arrests. Its early days were spent convincing Black men to track their vital signs while getting their hair cut. In the cultural context of the circle of trust between barber and client, Live Chair Health has helped thousands of members overcome a deep-seated resistance to sharing personal information for their health and wellbeing.
Ashley Williams, also from Baltimore, is an educator, emotional wellness advocate and mindfulness expert with more than a decade of experience in the field of emotional wellness. She founded Clymb after watching stress in children struggle with rage, misbehavior and anxiety at the school where she worked.
Clymb is a Baltimore-based organization that offers web-based emotional health software for school-age children designed to enhance their emotional intelligence and develop healthy coping strategies. One of the American Heart Association’s social impact funds, the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund, first supported Clymb, in 2021. Since then, the organization has expanded its services outside of Baltimore to schools across the country including additional language options to help young people develop emotional intelligence skills.
“As we acknowledge 100 years of service by the American Heart Association, we deeply value the power and passion of volunteers and community leaders who share in our mission to end health inequities to ensure health care access and quality care for people everywhere,” said Marsha Jones, American Heart Association volunteer board chair and former executive vice president and chief diversity officer for The PNC Financial Services Group. “From Damar using his voice to inspire people to understand the importance and value of CPR to the creative innovation spurred by Andrew and Ashley’s work on the ground in communities, we are committed to ensuring equitable health for everyone everywhere as we enter our second century.”
The American Heart Association Social Impact Funds were launched in 2018 to support community-based solutions that reduce social and economic barriers to health equity. Nine out of 10 new businesses need capital and women-led startups receive less than 3% of all venture capital investments. For many entrepreneurs and startup organizations, this lack of support can be a barrier to success and leave communities without resources. Helping these champions advance their work across maternal health, food security and healthcare access complements the work of the American Heart Association’s strategic goal to confront nonmedical, social and economic barriers to health and help everyone live longer, healthier lives. The funds are devoted to evidence-based, sustainable solutions led by local nonprofits and small businesses across diverse markets and issues. The EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator simultaneously supports social and digital health entrepreneurs and organizations who are driving change through health justice in their communities and specifically target food insecurity, transportation, access to healthcare, STEM, youth education and more.
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About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for a century. During 2024 –our Centennial year – we celebrate our rich 100-year history and accomplishments. As we forge ahead into our second century of bold discovery and impact our vision is to advance health and hope for everyone, everywhere. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, X or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
 Connie W. Tsao, MD, MPH, FAHA, Chair, Aaron W. Aday, MD, MSc, FAHA, Zaid I. Almarzooq, MB, BCH, Alvaro Alonso, MD, PhD, FAHA, Andrea Z. Beaton, MD, MS, FAHA, Marcio S. Bittencourt, MD, PhD, MPH, FAHA, Amelia K. Boehme, PhD, MSPH, Alfred E. Buxton, MD, April P. Carson, PhD, MSPH, FAHA, Yvonne Commodore-Mensah, PhD, MHS, RN, FAHA, Mitchell S.V. Elkind, MD, MS, FAHA, Kelly R. Evenson, PhD, MS, FAHA, Chete Eze-Nliam, MD, MPH, Jane F. Ferguson, PhD, FAHA, Giuliano Generoso, MD, PhD, Jennifer E. Ho, MD, FAHA, Rizwan Kalani, MD, Sadiya S. Khan, MD, MSc, FAHA, Brett M. Kissela, MD, MS, FAHA, Kristen L. Knutson, PhD, Deborah A. Levine, MD, MPH, Tené T. Lewis, PhD, FAHA, Junxiu Liu, PhD, Matthew Shane Loop, PhD, FAHA, Jun Ma, , MD, PhD, FAHA, Michael E. Mussolino, PhD, FAHA, Sankar D. Navaneethan, MD, MS, MPH, Amanda Marma Perak, MD, MS, FAHA, Remy Poudel, MS, MPH, CPH, Mary Rezk-Hanna, PhD, FAHA, Gregory A. Roth, MD, MPH, FAHA, Emily B. Schroeder, MD, PhD, FAHA, Svati H. Shah, MD, MHS, FAHA, Evan L. Thacker, PhD, Lisa B. VanWagner, MD, MSc, FAHA, Salim S. Virani, MD, PhD, FAHA, Jenifer H. Voecks, PhD, Nae-Yuh Wang, PhD, MS, FAHA, Kristine Yaffe, MD, Seth S. Martin, MD, MHS, FAHA, Vice Chair, on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2022 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2022; e153-e639. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000001052
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