Improving stroke treatment in Israel: from public awareness to political action

How Neeman Stroke Survivors campaigned to improve stroke treatment and outcomes

1. What are the key issues around stroke treatment in Israel? 

Key issues in Israel are lack of public awareness of risk factors and early warning signs of an oncoming stroke to ensure speedy arrival by ambulance to emergency stroke care. We also have an absence of stroke units in many areas throughout the country, developing more comprehensive access to these units would help us to deliver maximal medical care in the shortest possible time. Within stroke care centres we also have insufficient trained professionals to perform catheterization – a procedure that can remove blood clots and make a big difference to patient recovery. At present there are today only 8 specialists in Israel, which is a completely inadequate number to fulfil the needs of a population over 8 million. Once patients are out of acute care, we also have a lack of rehabilitation centers and rehabilitation beds and not enough professionally trained allied health rehabilitation personnel.

 2. Why did you choose this particular approach to raise awareness of the treatment needs of people having a stroke? 

Our strategy was to operate in two parallel directions: one was by using various media, especially a TV campaign with a large budget to influence the public, and the other was to influence decision-makers in the Ministry of Health, including the Health Minister and senior echelon from his office, by publicly signing the Israeli National Stroke Policy Declaration for Lowering Stroke Morbidity, at a large, official event. This two-pronged, multi media coverage was expected to draw interest of the public to stroke in general and to the feasibility of identifying early signs as well as influencing key decision-makers to fund the national program for long term, ongoing stroke treatment.

3. What were the most successful parts of the campaign? 

The integration between the various activities worked particularly well. We were able to generate a highly successful, generously funded film sponsored by the Health Ministry, which went viral, as well becoming as the subject of talk shows and popular news columns. The National Conference was attended by top level professionals from the fields of stroke prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, including the acting president of the WSO (by video) and in person participation of the president elect of the WSO. Our end result - a commitment was gained from the Minister of Health to continue in the future to prevent stroke and thus ensure this would not be a temporary campaign.

4. Can you describe the immediate impact of the campaign a) on the public and b) on healthcare policy makers? 

In the first stage we know of an increased number of persons who came to emergency care with early signs of a stroke and whose lives were saved. In addition, we received moving phone calls from the families who personally wished to thank us for saving their relatives from stroke. The many requests from the media for interviews from stroke survivors and Neeman representatives, together with increased utilization of social media all displayed a significant increase of public awareness to early signs of a stroke. In addition, the Health Ministry decided to set up a special working team to identify the issues involved in rehabilitating survivors of stroke and to submit recommendations, a subject that has been neglected up until now.

 5. What does it mean to you to receive an award from the World Stroke Campaign? 

It's a feeling of great satisfaction from the esteem granted to our persistent efforts over 20 years and the recognition of the effectiveness of the selected strategy chosen in our course of action. Winning the award also raises the prestige of the activities of NGOs in health care in general and particularly those which represent stroke survivors and their families, as well the many professional advisors and colleagues who assisted us. It is indeed a great honor!
Improving stroke treatment in Israel: from public awareness to political action Reviewed by Anita Wiseman on Monday, April 03, 2017 Rating: 5

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