Stroke remains the second biggest killer in the world. 15 million worldwide will have a stroke this year and 6.5 million will die as a result. Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is stopped, due to a clot or a ruptured blood vessel, but treatment can save lives and significantly improve outcomes for patients.
Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a cost-effective treatment but is dependent on the establishment of specialist stroke unit. While 91% of high income countries provide access to these units, only 18% in low-income countries, such as provide stroke unit care. Data shows that patients in these low-income settings experience four times the rate of stroke-related death and disability, compared to those living in higher income countries.
On World Stroke Day, the WSO is calling on hospitals to prioritise the development of stroke units, as a first step to being able to provide tPA, as well as the urgent training of non-specialist doctors, supported by telemedicine and the organization’s free online education resources, to widen the pool of trained professionals, particularly in low-income settings. It is also calling for donors, industry, pharmaceutical companies and governments to come together to prioritise stroke care units and the provision of tPA.
To help countries improve services, WSO has launched an online stroke care self-assessment platform for hospitals: the “Roadmap to Quality Stroke Care” and is urging healthcare professionals worldwide to access this platform in order to identify priority areas for improvement and make a commitment to developing quality stroke units. The roadmap can be used in all resource settings, in order to improve services, regardless of funding constraints.
Prof Sheila Martins, President-Elect at WSO who also leads the World Stroke Campaign, says “ tPA is a cost effective medication, paying for itself within 2 years of treatment. People treated with tPA have a 31% higher recovery rate and can go on to lead fully independent lives. We campaigned for many years for it to become an essential medicine and it is shocking that in 2021, 65% hospitals are still unable to provide it to their patients. We are calling for urgent action from industry, donors and governments to make tPA widely available. The first step has to be a commitment to improving stroke care through the implementation of stroke units. Time wasted means brain cells dying. It’s time for action. “
On World Stroke Day the general public, health care professionals, the stroke survivor community, politician and industry leaders and are also coming together to raise awareness of stroke symptoms. People can follow the campaign hashtag #Precioustime and join a global panel discussion ‘No time to waste’ at 3pm CET hosted by international journalist Rageh Omaar, with gold medal Olympian and stroke survivor Michael Johnson, alongside global stroke experts and public health policy makers by registering at www.worldstrokecampaign.org
Prof Marc Fisher, the WSO President added ‘This stroke day we are calling on everyone to learn the symptoms of stroke and to recognize stroke as a medical emergency. When that emergency call is made, no matter where, it is vital that health providers have done the work to ensure that every patient has access to quality stroke care and an equal chance of recovery.’