DALLAS, MAY 1, 2024  According to an American Heart Association 2020 presidential advisory, there is currently a three-year life expectancy gap between rural and urban American populations. Additionally, mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that the death rate for heart disease in rural areas is now 21% higher than in urban ones[1]. A new original video docuseries from the American Heart Association’s content production team, AHA Studios -- "Health Wanted: Finding Care in Rural America” -- sheds renewed light on the unique health equity barriers faced by rural communities across America. 

The series uses first-person, on-location documentary-style storytelling -- focused from Alaska to Appalachia -- to highlight real world obstacles to the successful prevention and treatment of heart disease, treatment of mental health concerns, and reduction of maternal health mortality rates in rural America. The series also focuses on the specific challenges faced by understaffed rural hospitals and health clinics while highlighting struggling yet innovative efforts to promote better health outcomes, primarily through local community engagement and improved local systems of care.  

  “Patients and health care professionals in rural areas face unique challenges and opportunities — by focusing on removing barriers, the American Heart Association aims to improve equitable cardiovascular care for everyone in the United States, regardless of where they live,” said Karen E. Joynt Maddox, MD, MPH, American Heart Association volunteer, co-author on Call to Action: Rural Health: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association and co-director of the Center for Health Economics and Policy at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Through the use of powerful visual storytelling, the Association hopes to raise broad awareness of the unique challenges faced by rural populations while inspiring positive systems change through collaboration, innovation and advocacy. Each episode features compelling, authentic firsthand accounts of individual people, their families and their communities, each grappling with inequitable health, underscoring the urgent need for action.  

"With Health Wanted: Finding Care in Rural America, we seek to leverage the power of storytelling to spur a national conversation about rural health disparities and create lasting, positive change," says American Heart Association Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Katrina McGhee. “The American Heart Association’s trusted brand and history of rich storytelling makes it uniquely positioned to be a change agent prompting this important national conversation.”

As a committed champion for heart health and overall well-being for all, the American Heart Association has historically focused on health equity, including working to close the gap between the quality of rural and urban hospital care. In 2020, the Association released Call to Action: Rural Health: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, emphasizing the need for increased access to care, improved quality of health care and a more targeted approach to reducing risk factors. In 2021, the Association announced a three-year initiative to help rural hospitals and clinicians provide high-quality, consistent, timely and appropriate evidence-based care through the Rural Health Care Outcomes Accelerator. The organization launched HeartCorps in 2022 to support 100 Public Health AmeriCorps members each year in rural areas to grow a sustainable pipeline of public health workers, reduce cardiovascular risks among rural residents and accelerate the adoption and implementation of systems changes to improve cardiovascular health. This summer, the Association announced a $20 million investment into scientific research of health challenges in rural areas. The American Heart Association continues to advocate for states and communities to pass public policies that increase access to health care, prevent tobacco use, strengthen systems of care, make healthy foods more available, create opportunities for physical activity and ensure governments can address the health concerns of their residents. Additionally, with support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust over the last 15 years, the American Heart Association has implemented key rural health solutions, including statewide heart and stroke systems of care across the Upper Midwest; the development and implementation of new quality standards to guide Post-Acute Stroke Care; developing the HeartCorps program; and expanding professional education and training opportunities so that all healthcare providers are equipped to deliver the highest-quality telehealth to patients through the establishment of the AHA Center for Telehealth.

  The public, media channels and platforms, as well as public health and community stakeholders are invited to act now and rally behind fellow Americans living in rural areas and view the powerful docuseries, which is now available. The series can be found on the American Heart Association - YouTube channel, a verified health source, identified and designated as an authoritative health source by You Tube, providing easy-to-understand video content that can help educate and inspire. To volunteer or donate to help us improve access to care in rural areas and communities across the country, please visit heart.org/ruralhealth.

Spanish news release 


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.orgFacebookX or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.   

For Media Inquiries:   

Joseph Marks, Joseph.Marks@heart.org 

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)  

heart.org or stroke.org