Stroke awareness campaign planned

pharmafile | December 11, 2008 | News story | Medical Communications stroke 

A three-year campaign to raise awareness of stroke will begin in February, using a mixture of advertising, PR and direct marketing.

The £12 million communications programme will emphasise how to recognise stroke symptoms and the need for prompt action to reduce risk to sufferers.

In particular, next year's campaign will highlight FAST, which stands for "face, action, speech, time".

The mnemonic is used by paramedics to assess three specific symptoms of stroke prior to a person being admitted to hospital.

These are facial weakness (often stroke victims' mouths or eyes droop), arm weakness and speech problems – and if all those are present it is "time to call 999".

Professor Roger Boyle, national director for heart disease and stroke, said: "It's important to remember that the faster a stroke patient receives emergency treatment, the better their chances are of surviving and avoiding long-term disability."

The Stroke Association has been promoting FAST since 2005 and said the Department of Health awareness scheme was vital.

The charity's chief executive Jon Barrick explained: "Better public understanding of stroke, its symptoms and treating it as a medical emergency will significantly improve the chances of recovery for the 150,000 people who have a stroke every year in the UK."

There are over 67,000 stroke deaths in the UK each year and it is the third biggest killer in England and Wales after heart disease and cancer.

The government says 300,000 people are living with moderate to severe disabilities as a result of stroke.

The government launched its stroke strategy a year ago, and says that progress – including better organisation of acute stroke care and training of more stroke specialist physicians – has been made.

But improving public awareness of the symptoms of stroke is another key element of the strategy.

The condition – the loss of brain function due to a clot or bleed in the brain – is the single largest cause of adult disability in England and accounts for 9% of UK deaths of men and 13% of women.

The direct cost of stroke to the NHS is an estimated £2.8 billion while the cost to the wider economy is £1.8 billion.

The total costs of stroke care are predicted to rise in real terms by 30% between 1991 and 2010.

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