DES MOINES, Iowa, June 23, 2022—People living in rural areas live an average of three years less than urban residents and have higher death rates from heart disease and stroke. To break down medical barriers for these residents, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association announced a statewide allocation of $7.5 million. Mission: Lifeline Stroke Initiative strengthen the full spectrum of stroke care in Iowa. At the heart of this new initiative is a $6.3 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Foundation.

Mission: Lifeline Stroke focuses on bringing together all components of acute stroke care into a seamlessly integrated system that enhances the use of evidence-based guidelines for the timely and effective management of stroke patients. It brings together hospitals, emergency and first responder services, rehabilitation facilities, communications and regulatory agencies, state and local governments, and payers to create a proactive stroke care system that saves and improves lives.

“The work of the Iowa Stroke Task Force ensures that Iowans quickly receive superior care from highly skilled providers so that stroke patients have the best chance of survival and a full recovery,” said Kelly Garcia, director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Iowa. . “This significant investment by the American Heart Association and the Helmsley Charitable Foundation builds on the work of the Stroke Task Force to strengthen and expand these lifesaving efforts and improve stroke recovery and rehabilitation in communities large and small across Iowa.”

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and strokes, is the leading cause of death in the United States. The acute nature of heart attacks and strokes is particularly deadly and requires timely treatment to save lives and reduce permanent disability. Stroke is the leading cause of death in Iowa, accounting for over 1,400 deaths in 2020.. Many other Iowans live with stroke-related disabilities.

This is the latest in a series of investments by Helmsley in Mission: The Lifeline Care System Model for Cardiovascular and Stroke Emergency Care. “We believe a holistic approach is the best way to make the most difference, especially for rural populations who face longer travel times and limited access to specialists,” said Walter Panzierer, trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Foundation.

The Iowa Stroke Program builds on the previous success of this approach. In 2015, the Helmsley Charitable Trust provided a $4.6 million grant to support the launch of Mission: Lifeline STEMI in Iowa to reduce the time to treat ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) cardiac emergency. STEMI is the most serious type of heart attack and occurs when blood flow is completely blocked in part of the heart.

Every minute saved in the treatment of heart attack and stroke can directly improve survival and recovery rates. Strengthening care requires a system-wide, data-driven quality improvement approach to address many of the same triage, translation, and treatment challenges in emergency stroke care.

“This ongoing commitment of the Helmsley Charitable Foundation will directly affect the lives of all Iowans, and I am very grateful for that,” said Dr. Enrique Leira, professor of neurology and director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at the University of Iowa and co-author. Chairman of the Iowa Stroke Task Force. “Mission: Lifeline Stroke will help us better coordinate stroke care from onset to treatment. Stroke treatment is time dependent, so it is essential that patients receive proper treatment as soon as possible. These investments will be particularly effective in reducing the unacceptable disparity in stroke care that we currently see in rural states like Iowa.”

Mission: Lifeline Stroke will build on the achievements of the existing Iowa Stroke Task Force by further strengthening collaboration with statewide stakeholders representing hospitals, individual emergency services, the Iowa Department of Human Services and others. The project will improve many critical elements of an optimal stroke care system, including:

  • Raise public awareness of stroke symptoms and the need to call 9-1-1;
  • A coordinated ambulance network well trained to rapidly identify patients with suspected stroke and transport them to the most appropriate facility;
  • Well-trained hospital staff ready to properly treat stroke patients and transition to higher levels of care and high-quality rehabilitation services when needed;
  • Coordination and collaboration between all stroke centers in the state;
  • Unhindered discharge for high-quality rehabilitation and recovery after an acute stroke;
  • Care in accordance with recommendations in institutions after acute care to improve recovery and quality of life;
  • A robust nationwide quality improvement data system to monitor patient care, identify progress and areas for further improvement and investment; as well as
  • Robust collaborative infrastructure for long-term attention to stroke outcomes across the state.

HeartCorps to Launch in Iowa and Nationwide

The Helmsley Charitable Foundation is also giving $3 million to the American Heart Association to launch HeartCorps in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wyoming.. HeartCorps is the Association’s new initiative serving rural communities in the United States. As the first grantee of the AmeriCorps Public Health Program, the AHA will launch HeartCorps this fall to address health inequities and prepare the next generation of public health leaders in rural America.

The goal of the initial three-year HeartCorps program is to build a steady stream of public health workers, reduce cardiovascular risk in rural communities, and accelerate the adoption and implementation of systemic changes to improve cardiovascular health. The AmeriCorps Public Health Program is a joint partnership between AmeriCorps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“HeartCorps is a great opportunity to strengthen the public health workforce in communities across the country,” Panzierer said. “Developing local expertise and resources to improve health outcomes will bring long-term benefits to these communities.”

With funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the AHA will place HeartCorps members in counties ranked among the least healthy in Iowa, according to county health rankings. These participants will focus on improving cardiovascular health, including blood pressure awareness and control. The funding will also support HeartCorps members in several counties in Minnesota and Wyoming.

HeartCorps will support 100 Public Health AmeriCorps members each year in rural areas across the country. AmeriCorps will provide $8.6 million, or 63% of the project, with the remaining $5.1 million, or 37% of the project, funded by the Helmsley Charitable Foundation, the American Heart Association, and other donors.

Since 2010, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has given more than $64 million to the American Heart Association’s mission. Helmsley’s support has been pivotal in improving statewide care systems in the Upper Midwest, including Mission: Lifeline STEMI projects in seven states from 2010 to 2016 and the launch of Mission: Lifeline Stroke in North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, and Iowa.


About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is an unrelenting force in the fight for longer, healthier lives. We are committed to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through partnerships with numerous organizations and the support of millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for public health, and share life-saving resources. The Dallas organization has been a leading source of medical information for almost a century. Contact us at, facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-AHA-USA1.

About the Helmsley Charitable Foundation
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Foundation strives to improve lives by supporting exceptional U.S. and global health efforts and select local initiatives. Since the start of active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has contributed more than $3 billion to a wide range of charitable causes. The Helmsley Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technology to connect rural patients to emergency care, provide the latest treatments to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and emergency personnel. To date, the program has awarded more than $500 million to organizations and initiatives in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, Nevada, and Montana. For more information about Helmsley and its programs visit

About AmeriCorps
AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteerism and national service, empowers Americans to serve their country domestically, address the nation’s most pressing problems, improve lives and communities, and strengthen civic engagement. The agency invests over $800 million annually in grants to local nonprofits, community, tribal, and government organizations; deploys more than 250,000 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers to intensive service positions; and empowers millions of others to work as long-term, short-term or one-time volunteers. Find out more at

For media inquiries:

Brian Jilan: 515-414-3204; [email protected]

For public inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) as well as

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