Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says a nationwide stroke awareness campaign has seen more New Zealanders reporting suspected strokes.
“Each year in New Zealand around 9,000 people have a stroke. Early identification and treatment are crucial to reduce the likelihood of brain damage and lasting harm,” says Dr Coleman.
“The successful FAST campaign returned to teach a simple message about how to recognise stroke symptoms, and the need to ring 111 fast.
“FAST stands for Face, Arm, Speech and Time (to call 111) - sudden changes to a person’s face such as drooping, loss of arm strength or impaired speech could all be warnings that they’re experiencing a stroke.
“It is important that campaigns like this can demonstrate they build awareness over time, and not just when they are running.
“The first campaign in 2016 increased calls for suspected stroke incidents to St John Ambulance by around 40 per week.
“During the most recent campaign, the average suspected stroke incidents recorded by St John rose from 160 to 196 per week which is an increase of 22 per cent - peaking at 231 incidents a week.
“Likewise, the average number of ambulance call-outs per week confirmed as strokes increased from 45 before the campaign, to 52 in July.
“This is all good news and it shows that as a result of the FAST campaigns more people recognise suspected strokes.
“St John advises that while all incidents weren’t necessarily strokes, they prefer people err on the side of caution and call 111 if they suspect a stroke at all.
“More will be known about the impact of the 2017 FAST campaign after a full evaluation is completed.”
The successful three-month multi-media campaign was funded by the Ministry of Health. It was developed and supported by the Health Promotion Agency and Stroke Foundation.