Recognising 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