Recognizing the signs of stroke and getting fast access to treatment is vital in saving lives and improving outcomes for stroke survivors. Awareness of the FAST message is a core strand of World Stroke Campaign and of the WSO’s members around the world. But one important audience for this message - and one which has not been traditionally included in awareness programs - is children.
While the prevalence of stroke in children is much lower than in the adult population, with the global lifetime risk of stroke now standing at 1 in 4, equipping kids with basic knowledge about what stroke looks like and what to do in an emergency could prove life-saving.
This is why WSO has recently endorsed the FAST Heroes program and will be working to pilot and evaluate this kindergarten-level education initiative and help with localisation of resources and activities for communities around the world.
The FAST Heroes program has created an animated character-based education program with a central character, Timmy, who becomes a FAST Hero by learning how to beat the Evil Clot and save the Grandheroes in his life (his grandparents). Resources for use in class are age appropriate and include learning materials such as short film animations, classroom activities and take-home materials to literally hit the message home. There are even ideas to help schools and communities raise funds to broaden participation and make the program more sustainable in the longer-term.
Michael Brainin, President of WSO said of the partnership, ‘We’re excited to pilot this program which we hope will not only convey life-saving information but will also help us to understand how to better work with children to support broader community awareness of stroke and FAST.’
Jan van der Merwe, Project Lead for the Angels Initiative in Europe which supports the FAST Heroes program commented. “Since launching the Angels Initiative, we realized that there are two big issues that somehow need to be addressed. The first of which is that patients arrive too late for treatment. This can be due to misdiagnosis or not seeing the symptoms as serious enough to warrant going to a hospital. The second big issue is that too many patients go to and are then admitted to hospitals that are not “Stroke Ready”. Both of these mistakes very often result in much worse outcomes post stroke. To help solve one of these issues, the Angels Initiative supported The Department of Educational and Social Policy of the University of Macedonia to develop the FAST Hero program.
Stroke steals lives, and through engaging children and their families 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 disablity.”
Pilot FAST Hero programs will be delivered in partnership with WSO members in a number of countries including Brazil, Singapore and South Africa. For more information about participating in the WSO FAST Heroes program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
FAST Heroes in South Africa
For many children their grandparents and parents are their heroes. Heroes who help them, nurture them and love them. What kids don't know is that sometimes even heroes need help. Every day up to 360 South Africans are affected by strokes, with data suggesting that about a third of those who suffer a stroke will die, and a quarter will be left with life-changing disability. The risk of stroke increases with age and in South Africa stroke is the most common cause of death of people older than 50 years.
This October (Stroke Month), the Angels Initiative in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation is on a mission to save South African heroes by getting families around the country to join the FAST Heroes.
The FAST Heroes team will be visiting schools to help children identify the signs of strokes, teach them what to do should one of their loved ones experience these signs, and turn them into the next generation of heroes. The team will provide the schools with material and teach them creative ideas to remember all important stroke facts so that they can remember how to save their hero.
“Stroke awareness and education is important to the Angels Initiative. In South Africa 10 people suffer a stroke every hour, getting the message across to as many South Africans as possible can save the lives of countless heroes,” says Carica Combrink, Angels Initiative project lead.
The campaign wants to provide families with tools with a dual role, to help spend quality time together as a family, and by doing so, transfer the knowledge about stroke through incidental learning. By identifying stroke symptoms and immediately calling an ambulance call centre, including 112, you can save a life.
“The FAST heroes campaign aims to educate people about stroke and nourish the relationship between children and their care-givers, regardless of whether they are parents, grandparents or another person. If you think about it, in fighting against strokes, we are not merely mobilising against some disease, what we are doing is saving the experiences which so often gets stolen by stroke,” says Prof Pamela Naidoo, president of the Heart and Stroke foundation.
What is the action you should take if you suspect that someone is having a stroke: https://bit.ly/2J5fezP
Achieving our vision of a life free from stroke is a task that WSO cannot achieve alone. We are committed to building our partnerships at the global, regional and national level to scale up and deliver improvements in prevention, treatment and support to reduce the burden of stroke.