Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Survivor Voices Heard Loud and Clear in Stroke Awareness Month

Sharing member highlights from Stroke Awareness Month 2019

In many countries May is traditionally the month to talk about all things stroke. Across the USA and Europe Stroke Awareness Month has been marked on the calendar of stroke organizations and stakeholders as a key opportunity to raise public awareness and start conversations about stroke. 

Famous or not speaking publicly about stroke, while crucial to raising awareness and reducing the stigma of stroke, can be extremely daunting. But the decision to  ‘step up to the plate’ by several high-profile stroke survivors in May 2019 has given stroke perhaps higher visibility than ever and served as a vital support to those of us who have important stories and information to share.

The decisions of Michael Johnson, once the world’s fastest man, talking about his long journey to recovery after stroke and of Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke to share her story have been incredibly helpful in reaching the wider public and showing that with the right care, treatment and rehabilitation stroke is treatable and beatable. The death of movie director John Singleton at the age of 51, while just one of many less well known people who have lost their lives to stroke recently, did much to highlight the tragic impact of stroke, the fact that many strokes happen to younger people.

In the UK, the Stroke Association the country’s first ever TV stroke advertisement was aired in May as part of a partnership campaign with the UK’s Channel 4 network. The 60 second piece which is part of a wider media campaign, uses the voices and faces of stroke survivors to describe the moment that their stroke hit, the need for support with recovery and is working to ‘change the face’ of stroke survivors.

Elsewhere in Europe, members of SAFE kept the WSO #UpAgainAfterStroke campaign flag flying with a month-long focus on stroke rehabilitation and long-term support across the region. From politicians to family members a multitude of voices shared their perspectives on the urgent need to develop better and more equitable access to rehabilitation and care. The translation and dissemination of the European Burden of Stroke report gave policy weight to the awareness campaign offering a valuable advocacy tool for stroke organizations in the region. 

Outside Europe, but equally focused on stroke survivor experience, the new but fast-growing Michael and Francisca Foundation in Nigeria took the opportunity of Stroke Awareness Month to run a special event for stroke survivors to connect, share stories, challenges and inspiration. 

In the USA the American Stroke Association focused on the fact that the biggest single risk factor for stroke is having already had a stroke.  ASA’s campaign ‘Don’t let stroke strike twice’ was a supported by an online patient education resource highlighting key risk factors and encouraging survivors to ask their doctor to create a personalised stroke prevention plan.

It really seems like a change is happening in relation to stroke awareness and as we look forward to World Stroke Day, we will be learning from and building on the work of our members in May and collaborating to make the many voices of stroke sound loudly on October 29th.

Well done to all of our members who worked hard during May to raise stroke awareness. If you would like to share your Stroke Awareness Month highlights with us, you can post to our Facebook page or tag @WStrokeCampaign on twitter.

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