Promoting SSOs in China

Sarah Belson, WSO International Development Manager, has just spent a week in China.

When I was first approached by Liying Xing, a neurology clinical research nurse at University College Hospital London, to participate in the Tiantan Stroke Conference in Beijing, my initial response was that I wasn't sure I was the person she was looking for. 'Yes you are' she said, 'we want someone to talk about stroke support in the community'. This was certainly a good start. I can’t say whether my 20 minute session introducing the WSO, its priority to support SSOs, and examples of SSO work around the world, had an immediate impact on my audience. This might have been because I was a bit of an anomaly in the session on Risk factors intervention and neuroprotection for cerebrovascular diseases. But the topic of SSOs was on the programme at least.

On the first evening of the Conference, the Chinese Stroke Association organised a celebration and award giving event for 300 of its 27,000 registered volunteers. These volunteers include doctors and nurses and are known as the Red Bracelet Movement, the stroke support arm of the Chinese Stroke Association. The movement is championed by Professor Wang Shaoshi and he attended the event along with the leadership of the Chinese Stroke Association. It was inspiring to see so many volunteers from across this vast country, committed to raising awareness about stroke - the risks, the signs and the emergency response. There is huge potential for some of these volunteers to develop SSOs and build on the stroke awareness work. This is certainly something that Professor Shaoshi recognises and wants to explore further.

And then on to Chongqing, a city that has grown from a population of 7 million to 37 million in the past two decades. We visited the Fourth People's Hospital of Chongqing and the attached Emergency Medical Centre. The hospital is not lacking in the latest modern equipment and some of the patients we met on the neurology ward couldn't be more enthusiastic about the care they had received. 'I'm a mathematician' one said, 'I only talk facts; they really took care of me'. One of the neurosurgeons said that 40% of the patients he sees have had a stroke. We met with staff from across the department and there was real consensus that support to stroke survivors in the community is lacking. Straight away we could see the opportunity to integrate stroke support work into the neurology department’s community medical association initiative, through which they share knowledge and good practice with community medical centres. So, what next? There is now a plan to set up an SSO in Chongqing and there is certainly a number of people who are in a position to make this happen.

In other meetings we met with the vice secretary of the Foreign and Chinese Affairs Office, and at the Health Commission we met with representatives of a number of other hospitals across Chongqing. There is great enthusiasm for learning more about what SSOs are, how they contribute to prevention awareness and how they can respond to the gap in rehabilitation and recovery support in China. In addition, many people we met are keen to join the WSO in order to access its resources and opportunities. The priority now is to build on this enthusiasm and these connections, in a country where stroke is the leading cause of death and where there are 7.7 million stroke survivors, who all have a right to be supported in their recovery. 
Promoting SSOs in China Reviewed by Sarah Belson on Friday, June 30, 2017 Rating: 5

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