The American Heart Association is reaching out to new audiences, including the hip festival of music and film, South by Southwest, one of the largest and most influential gatherings in the country.

AHA CEO Nancy Brown is making a bid to be a presenter at the gathering March 13-22, with a 30-minute video proposal that makes an appeal to those who are “disrupting the healthcare industry” by looking for new ways to connect consumers, companies and health leaders through social media and mobile technology. 

Technology is key in fighting heart disease and stroke, she said. Cardiovascular disease causes one death every 40 seconds, and CVD and stroke remain the leading causes of death, not only in the United States but worldwide.

“This is what I wake up and think about every day,” Brown said in the video, where she describes an array of emerging mobile apps and technologies to improve and track health. “We have [an] urgent call for things to happen in new and different ways so that we can change these statistics as we move forward.”

SXSW is a set of film, interactive, and music festivals and sessions that take place early each year in mid-March in Austin, Texas. The festival is promoted as a fertile ground to exchange ideas and emerging technologies. In its 28th year, the weeklong gathering is estimated to attract more than 80,000 people to the various interactive, film and music, party and conference vents.  

Brown’s video is online through PanelPicker, a two-step online process that allows worldwide voting by the public, a SXSW advisory board and the SXSW staff to choose on the final line-up of presenters. Voters do not need to be registered attendees. Voting will close Friday, Sept. 5.

The selection process is extremely competitive. In 2013, for example, the festival received 4,500 entry proposals. The SXSW website says “fully-proofed, narrowly-focused, forward-thinking ideas that emphasize creativity and innovation will have the best chance of successfully navigating SXSW community voting, staff analysis and Advisory Board feedback.”

The SXSW bid is the latest in the AHA’s efforts to expand beyond its science-based model and connect with the public in new, more emotional ways. This past month, it launched a new branding campaign, filled with social media and direct consumer engagement, called Life is Why/Es Por La Vida. A microsite,, features a toolkit designed to give consumers the ability to customize and share their personal Whys.

The reach to new audiences folds into the AHA’s larger goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent and reduce cardiovascular deaths by 20 percent by 2020.

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