Think F.A.S.T: increasing stroke awareness

  • Face Arms Speech Time graphic

It is hard to believe we have started another year with the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting every aspect of our way of life and putting unprecedented demands on the health sector. As the recent surge of the Omicron variant has seen more people being hospitalised, there is an increasing risk that other medical emergencies – stroke being one of them – will be impacted.

If only there was a vaccine to lessen the impact of a stroke! Because long after the COVID-19 pandemic has eased, stroke will still be one of Australia’s biggest causes of death. It kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer every single year.

The good news is that we have effective treatments for stroke, but time determines how much you will recover – the faster you get emergency treatment, the better your chances of surviving and recovering well.

For our regional and remote communities across Australia, fast action is even more important given the distance from comprehensive stroke centres. But if more people knew the signs of stroke, lives would be saved and disability reduced or avoided.

We know there are thousands of rural and remote communities which do not have easy access to specialised stoke services. That is why we are fierce champions of the Australian Stroke Alliance and its work to develop state-of-the-art stroke scanners for air ambulances, and why we work with governments to fund statewide telestroke services enabling specialist stroke doctors to support regional hospitals via video.

But accessing these services quickly relies on the initial recognition of a stroke. This year Stroke Foundation will be increasing its public education and awareness campaign to help more Australians know what to look for when a stroke strikes.

Our message is simple – think F.A.S.T.  This acronym reminds us that stroke can present as Facial droop, the inability to lift your Arms or slurred Speech. When any of these signs happen, Time is critical. Call an ambulance immediately.

Our annual national survey of stroke awareness last year found that 40 per cent of Australians would not recognise any of the most common signs of stroke. This puts hundreds of lives at risk.

Our goal is to ensure that every household and workplace in Australia has someone who can recognise the signs of stroke. Our goal is ambitious and we need your help.

We are asking the incoming federal government to invest $5 million in a nationwide awareness campaign. We want our F.A.S.T message played on televisions and radio stations in every corner of the country so that more Australians know what to do in the event of a stroke.

If you have the opportunity to talk to your federal candidate as campaigning begins, please reiterate the importance of knowing the F.A.S.T message.

Stroke costs Australia $6 billion per year through medical costs, ongoing treatment and the loss of workplace productivity. That financial impact is one of the few completely equitable facts about stroke – every community loses when one of its members is severely impacted by a stroke.

That’s even more of a tragedy given 80 per cent of strokes are preventable.

We look forward to working with the next Australian Government to prevent stroke, save lives and improve recovery, and we hope that includes the investment in stroke awareness education.

Your local candidate needs to know how important it is for rural communities to recognise stroke. Together we can save lives and reduce unnecessary disability that devastates hundreds of families every year.

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