American Heart Association volunteer Craig Beam has for many years been committed to fighting heart disease on all three fronts: personally, locally and globally.
Last month Beam was named the Ron Haddock AHA/ASA International Impact Award winner for helping grow Go Red For Women around the globe. Go Red is the American Heart Association’s movement to educate women that heart disease is their biggest threat, killing more people than all forms of cancer combined.
Beam’s volunteer work on an international business model and trademarking of Go Red was one of the first steps to expanding it globally. Today the awareness campaign includes about 50 countries — including far-off nations such as Libya, Argentina and Pakistan.
“I was originally recruited to help build the Orange County Chapter office in 1984,” said Beam, who’s also the managing director of CBRE Healthcare Services Group in Newport Beach.
Since then, his participation has snowballed from local to global. In 2007 earned the AHA’s Gold Heart Award, the highest volunteer honor.
But for Beam, it has never been about the awards.
Early on, he saw how heart disease hurt his family. His uncle died of stroke died at 28, leaving a pregnant wife and two other children. Stroke and heart disease killed his grandparents. Years ago, both Beam and his dad battled high cholesterol. Beam’s teetered dangerously near 400.
As the AHA’s chairman of the board from 2002 to 2003, Beam’s work has helped the association address disparities in risk factors for cardiovascular disease awareness, life expectancy and resources.
Beam, who’s also a longtime volunteer leader with the World Heart Federation, has played a big role in helping that organization prevent rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in Africa, where it’s killing kids in adolescence.
Rheumatic fever, which is caused by a neglected case of strep throat, kills more than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis because children don’t get the lab work or the penicillin they need, Beam said.
“Hopefully you’re making a difference — you feel like you’re trying to boil the ocean,” Beam said. “We identified one area where we thought we could make an impact.”
It was once a big problem in the United States too. As rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease became leading causes of childhood death early in the 20th century, the American Heart Association ran a campaign in the 1930s about the dangers.
Slowly it’s getting better in Africa, thanks to education, screenings and medication. Beam helped personally ensure that the World Heart Federation kept its campaign to fight rheumatic heart disease alive, securing funds to prevent some of the estimated 252,000 new cases each year.
He’s helping save lives in the United States too. Beam has used CPR, a skill he encourages everyone to learn, more than once. The last time was two years ago on a golf course.
“One of the guys collapsed,” Beam said. “At first I thought he’d missed his putt and was over-emoting.”
When he realized it was serious, Beam jumped in a cart and started doing chest compressions. The fire department couldn’t get to him quickly, and they said he didn’t have much chance of survival,” Beam said. But the golfer who nearly died is still around to help Beam spread the word that the simple skill saves lives.
Said Beam, “He and I are now doing ‘road shows’ to urge people to learn CPR.”