American Heart Association NYC honors Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from September 15 to October 15, is a time to recognize and celebrate the rich cultural contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. It’s also an opportune moment to address health disparities within this community, especially the impact of cardiovascular disease, which is a leading health concern.

This Hispanic Heritage Month, the American Heart Association has taken a bold step towards addressing the significant barriers of language and health literacy that exist in the Latino community by launching R.A.P.I.D.O., a public health education campaign designed to help Spanish speakers identify the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

In this article we will take introduce you to R.A.P.I.D.O., along with more initiatives the Association is leveraging to improve health in the Latino community.


When someone has a stroke, every second counts. Identifying the symptoms and calling 911 quickly can make the difference between life and death or long-term disability. According to American Stroke Association stroke survey data, only 39% of Hispanic-Latino consumers said they were familiar with the English stroke warning sign acronym, F.A.S.T., and only 42% could correctly name two stroke warning signs unaided.

To help close the gap between knowledge and action, the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, is launching Juntos Contra el Derrame Cerebral, a culturally relevant Spanish-language campaign to raise awareness among Spanish-dominant audiences around the use and understanding of R.Á.P.I.D.O., a Spanish acronym for stroke warning signs that can help save lives.

Projections show that by 2030, the prevalence of stroke among Hispanic men will increase by 29%. The Association’s adoption and promotion of R.Á.P.I.D.O. represents significant steps in addressing the lack of awareness of the increased risk of stroke faced by Hispanic-Latino people in the U.S., a group already disproportionately impacted.

CPR Awareness: Héroes Salvando Corazones/Heroes Saving Hearts

In the United States, Hispanic and Black people are at a higher risk for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest with a poor prognosis due to longstanding social policies resulting in limited access to quality education and healthcare.  While many factors impact why Black people and Latinos are at higher-risk, a few themes persist: fear of causing injury, touching a woman’s chest, legal ramifications, feeling that CPR is too complicated, not feeling confident performing CPR, and not being trained in CPR.

As a champion for health equity, the American Heart Association, the leading global voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke for all, launched the “Héroes Salvando Corazones/Heroes Saving Hearts” campaign. The campaign, which launched in August 2022, encourages the Hispanic-Latino community to learn the two steps to Hands-Only CPR to help save lives.

Hands-Only CPR is CPR without breaths, in two easy steps: 1) Call 911 and 2) push hard and fast in the center of the chest to a beat of 100-120 beats per minute.

Hispanic Serving Institutions Scholars Program

In 2022 , the American Heart Association debuted the Hispanic Serving Institutions Scholars Program to help develop a pipeline of diverse researchers and health care professionals of Latino heritage. This unique program provides undergraduate students enrolled in biomedical and health sciences at Hispanic Serving Institutions* with academic and career-enriching resources, including scholarships and mentoring. Scholars participate in an academic year of career mentorship to increase their awareness of their potential impact on the understanding and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Scholars, with the support of the American Heart Association, and committed and impactful mentors, learn about health disparities in Hispanic communities, how cultural sensitivity can provide safe and reassuring clinical spaces, and how inclusivity is essential in science.

To date, five New York City students have been recognized as HSI Scholars, with three more being announced later this month:

Class of 2022:

Jalen Crespo
Senior Biology Major | CUNY: The City College of New York
Native of Brooklyn, NY

Jancy Contreras Hernandez
Senior Biochemistry Major | CUNY: The City College of New York
Native of New York City, NY

Class of 2023:

Andrea Vasquez Guillen
Sophomore Nursing Major | Hostos (CUNY) | Bronx, NY

Elizabeth Soto
Sophomore Liberal Arts (A.A.) Major | CUNY | New York City, NY

Maria Jesus Vasquez Guillen
Sophomore Nursing Major | Hostos (CUNY) | Bronx, NY

We were fortunate to work closely with two scholars, sisters Andrea and Maria Jesus Vasquez, to share their incredible story from Venezuela, to the American Heart Association to Columbia University. The sisters were invited to celebrate their success and raise awareness about the HSI Scholars Program earlier this year on the WABC television program, TIEMPO with Joe Torres.

*According to the U.S. Department of Education, a Hispanic-Serving Institution is  an institution of higher education that has an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students at the end of the award year immediately preceding the date of application.