The sad reality is that one in four of us will have a stroke in our lifetime. And worldwide, stroke is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability.
The good news though is that it is treatable. Getting the right treatment quickly gives stroke patients the best chance. People can survive with their lives intact if they receive fast and effective acute care. However, research shows that people often do not recognise the key signs of a stroke and do not seek emergency treatment straight away. A recent study, published in the BMC Emergency Medicine journal, showed that only 23% of stroke patients realised they were having a stroke. And just 11% called for an ambulance straight away. It is therefore extremely important that we continue to increase awareness of the key symptoms of stroke and give people the confidence and clarity to seek immediate emergency care.
We believe that children can help make a real difference here, acting as a catalyst to spark interest amongst their wider family. That’s why we are supporting a ground-breaking health educational campaign called FAST Heroes. It seeks to use children’s enthusiasm for learning to help improve recognition of the signs of stroke and the need for speedy action. The aim is that youngsters then help spread the knowledge they gain to the rest of their family. Educating children is proven to be a viable way to enhance their community’s stroke preparedness2.
The award-winning campaign focuses on the unique bond between children and their grandparents, as the average age of a stroke patient is around 70 years of age. We know that grandparents are an especially important source of unconditional love, patience, and kindness for many children around the world. Given stroke is one of the biggest reasons that children lose their grandparents - to death or disability - we are essentially fighting for them to have more quality time together.
At the heart of the campaign is an educational programme that is fun, engaging, and interactive. Primarily aimed at children aged 5 to 9 years of age, it teaches them about empathy and love, as well as providing practical life-saving skills. Using a superhero theme, children are empowered with tools to help fulfil their mission of educating their grandparents.
We’re calling on primary schools around the world to help support the roll out of this ground-breaking campaign during March 2021. Schools are well placed to get children involved and engaged, helping embed the learning and inspire action. By implementing the FAST Heroes campaign in schools in Greece, we were able to significantly improve knowledge of three stroke symptoms. And importantly, every single family knew the 112 emergency number after the intervention, an improvement of 60%3.
All resources needed to implement the campaign are being offered for free. And schools can get involved at the level that’s right for them – from implementing the programme in classrooms, through to simply sending out information to their parents and guardians to encourage participation at home. There will be chances for schools to win great prizes and even the opportunity to be part of a Guinness World Record attempt. The Grand Mission is to reach one million children from across the world. It’s a great chance to participate in something special for an important cause.
Ethienne Reynecke, a professional rugby player from South Africa and a stroke survivor, believes his young daughter Layla saved his life. She noticed his speech wasn’t right and told her mum she thought he needed to go to hospital. That’s just one example to show the life-saving impact that children can make.
By educating parents and grandparents through their children, we can do something to make sure that when stroke strikes, we are as prepared as we can be. This could be the difference not only between life and death, but also between ‘life as we know it’ and a life lived with permanent disability.
To find out more about the campaign and to sign up your school to get involved, visit fastheroes.com. As the campaign strapline says, ‘Together we can save the world, one grandparent at a time.’