Who we are

The InterAmerican Heart Program was created in September 1992 under the auspice of the World Heart Federation with the support of the American Heart Association, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Interamerican Society of Cardiology, and heart foundations and societies throughout the American continents.

On April 17, 1994, in Mexico City, 21 participants representing 12 countries in the Americas signed a Statement of Intent to become members of the organization they named “InterAmerican Heart Foundation (IAHF) whose mission was to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke in the Americas.” Since then, 36 heart foundations have ratified their membership, and the numbers are growing. These organizations are committed to working together toward a unified mission.

In July of 1995, the InterAmerican Heart Foundation was legally formed as a US 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization promoting health and well-being in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) by working to reduce heart diseases and stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases –the non-communicable diseases or NCDs– which are the leading cause of premature death and disability in the world today.

 

Heart attack and blood vessel diseases, including high blood pressure and stroke, know no boundaries.

What we do

IAHF efforts are directed at modifying the risk factors that cause NCDs; promoting smoke-free environments, healthy diets and physical activity in schools and communities. We facilitate the development of networks of civil society organizations that work together to reduce the risks of obesity, hypertension, smoking, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, the harmful effects of air pollution, and defending the right to health and information.

More people are using tobacco. Diets have more fat. And physical work is being replaced by labor-saving devices – leading to sedentary lifestyles and weight gain. The combination of bad lifestyle habits and urbanization, over time, leads to high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and the premature development of atherosclerosis.

The result can be heart attack, heart failure, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, and other vascular problems. Medical treatment requires huge expenditures for medical and hospital care, depleting economic resources at all levels of the countries of the Americas.

What are the challenges?

– To promote healthy living and reduce NCDs in Latin America and the Caribbean through research, advocacy, public awareness and education.
– Increase awareness in countries of the urgency of dealing with this pandemic which consumes a large part of health budgets and undermines sustainable development, becoming an issue of social equity.
– To make NCDs a priority investment for health and development, promoting funding models that support cost-effective national responses to NCDs.
– Strengthen and mobilize civil society, incorporating the voices of young people and people living with NCDs, enabling the development of networks of civil society organizations, integrating the academic and scientific world, so that they commit governments and multilateral organizations in this effort.

Rising to the challenge

– Create awareness, inform and educate political decision-makers, the media and the public about people’s right to health and to useful, clear and understandable information about what they consume including food and beverages, tobacco and alcohol products.
– Strengthen public policies to generate the changes and regulations necessary to improve the quality of life for everyone.
– Promote smoke-free environments and warning labels for unhealthy products such as tobacco, ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks.
– Improve access and affordability of fruits and vegetables, promote physical activity and control air pollution.
– Raise awareness on government responsibility to protect people´s health with effective policies that create an environment that favors individuals´ healthy choices.

This reality must change now

– NCDs cause more than 75% of premature deaths worldwide. These are largely preventable and generate very high costs to healthcare systems and society as a whole.
– Heart diseases and stroke are the most prevalent and represent the greatest economic and social burden of NCDs for countries.
– The prevalence of hypertension in Latin America and the Caribbean is 35% of the population. Hypertension is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
– More than 34 thousand people die each year from secondhand smoke, and more than USD $33 billion per year are spent to treat health problems related to tobacco use.
– Overweight and obesity affected one in four Latin Americans in 2006.  This number has been growing alarmingly in recent years, affecting children in increasing percentages.
– Some of the causes of this pandemic are the lack of physical activity, low consumption of fruits and vegetables and high consumption of foods in excess of sugar, salt and fats.
– 103 million people live with diabetes in the Americas. This translates to about USD $65 billion per year in treatment costs.
– NCDs affect not only the individual but also their families, and are an economic burden for countries as well as a barrier for sustainable development.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is responsible for the overall governance of the organization including formulating a long-range strategic plan and has the final authority on the operations of the IAHF, consistent with the Bylaws.  Specifically, it has responsibility for the control and management of the affairs, funds and property of the IAHF, including but not limited to, approval of the budget and other fiscal matters, approval of strategic and operational policies, oversight of risk management,  delegation of the implementation of operational policy and employment to the Executive Director and annual evaluation of the Executive Director.  The Board also will review Bylaws and make recommendations for discussion and approval by the General Assembly.  To fulfill its responsibilities, the Board may create and dissolve committees of the Board and other more informal working groups as it deems necessary.  The members of the Board shall serve without compensation.

Andreas Wielgosz, MD, PhD – President
The Ottawa Hospital – General Campus

Ottawa, ON Canada

Nathan D. Wong, MPH, PhD, FAHA – Vice President and President Elect
Heart Disease Prevention Program, Division of Cardiology
University of California
Irvine School of Medicine

Vicente Finizola, MD – Secretary
Fundación Venezolana del Corazón
Barquisimeto, Venezuela

Alejandro Alcocer, MD – Member at Large
Hospital San Ángel Inn Universidad
México, DF, México

Eduardo Bianco, MD – Member at Large
Unidad Cardiológica de la Asociación Española Primera
Socorros Mutuos
Montevideo, Uruguay

Ronnie Bissessar, L.E.C. – Member at Large
Trinidad and Tobago Heart Foundation
President
Trinidad & Tobago

Oscar A. Cabrera, JD – Member at Large
O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law
Georgetown University Law Center
Washington, DC, USA

Deborah Chen, SRN MPH – Member at Large
The Heart Foundation of Jamaica
Executive Director
Kingston, Jamaica

Paula Johns – Member at Large
ACT Promoção da Saúde
General Director
Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil

Staff

Eugenia Ramos, PhD – Executive Director

Javier Valenzuela – Chief Operating Officer

Beatriz Champagne, PhD – Director of Advocacy, Coordinator – Coalición Latinoamérica Saludable