What has inspired you to be involved in stroke support?
For me getting involved in stroke support is both an informed and worthwhile decision. Stroke support, and organisations that provide it, are needed urgently in Tanzania. I feel a responsibility to invest the knowledge and skills that I have gained in my public health work in communities through a cascading approach.
What does stroke support look like in your country?
There are a good number of health facilities in Tanzania that offer cardiovascular disease (CVD) treatment services, including clinical assessment, MRI, CT-SCAN, ECHO, ECG, X-ray, and weight, body and waist mass indexes. However, CVD prevention and post stroke care services for stroke survivors need to be improved in order to ensure long term impact for stroke survivors, family members and the general community.
How did the project come about?
As a tutor with the People’s Open Access Education Initiative, which partners with EUCLID
, I facilitate a topic on NCDs, in particular CVD and diabetes mellitus. In collaboration with different research institutions we provide public health capacity building to health care professionals in low and middle income countries, where the burden of NCDs is growing. I am in close contact with people affected by stroke and we have discussed many issues in regard to the impact of stroke, and family and community needs. I have used this learning and insight to develop my stroke support activities.
What have been some of the outcomes of the project?
There is increasing awareness of stroke and sensitisation of health services to the needs of stroke patients and their carers. They are increasingly accessing available health facilities for stroke assessment and rehabilitation. There are now health and heart clubs in different parts of the country as a result of the project’s stroke management cascading model.
What has been the feedback from stroke survivors to the project?
The feedback from stroke survivors is that there has to be public health promotion, which promotes healthier lifestyle behaviours and support for the development of approaches that enable behaviour change. I see the need for regular provision of stroke education and health promotion, information systems that best support the stroke strategy, ICT materials and the promotion of widespread and consistent use of patient care guidelines in all settings in the country.
What has been the response from others – community, doctors, politicians?
The community, doctors and politicians recognise the need to have stroke support organisations that are accessible and reliable, with focal centres and human and financial resources to be able to execute integrated stroke interventions in any given local setting in Tanzania.
What would you say to other people to make them take stroke prevention seriously?
Primary health care is key to stroke prevention. There is a need to establish a framework for educating health care professionals to address the social determinants of health in Tanzania. CVDs are silent killers, therefore, individuals, family members and communities must be aware of the impact of CVDs to their health, and risk factors that they can manage.