DES MOINES — Iowa is getting more than $9 million to improve its system of care for stroke patients, and to address staffing issues among public-health workers in rural areas.

The money is being donated by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, with $6 million of it going to the American Heart Association’s (AHA’s) “Mission: Lifeline Stroke” initiative across the state.

Michelle Scharnott, national vice president for business development and strategic initiatives for the American Heart Association, said the program strives to bring more coordination and efficiency to hospitals, first responders, rehabilitation centers and others when delivering this kind of care.

“It’s figuring out that destination decision and who has what capabilities within the state,” Scharnott outlined. “And assessing that patient immediately to make sure the best decision is made.”

The association, which is also contributing funds, noted stroke is among the leading causes of death in Iowa, with more than 1,400 such cases in 2020.

Helmsley is also granting $3 million in Iowa and two other states for AHA to launch its “HeartCorps” program. It involves adding public-health workers in rural settings, especially in counties ranking among the least healthy.

Officials explained the workers can focus on helping people improve their cardiovascular health. As for streamlining stroke care.

Walter Panzirer, trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust, said it helps to ensure patients return to their lives and their communities.

“In small towns, if the owner of a lumber mill, for example, or any small-town business, has a life-threatening stroke, that business might not be around anymore,” Panzirer emphasized.

Previously, the philanthropic organization donated nearly $5 million for a similar AHA program in Iowa to address heart-attack care. And it recently provided funding for large trucks to travel to smaller Iowa communities, allowing rural health providers more access to training and equipment for general health care needs.