Call to rerun FAST stroke symptoms ad campaign

The head of the National Stroke Programme has called for the rerunning of a hard-hitting advertising campaign that led to a major increase in the number of stroke victims who got to hospital in time for potentially lifesaving treatment.

Dr Rónán Collins said it needs to get FAST back on as soon as possible, because the progress made during the 2010/2011 TV and radio campaign had been lost.

“Since the ad disappeared, all that progress was lost and less than 50% are presenting within 3.5 hours. Ideally they should be presenting within that timeframe or sooner,” said Dr Collins.

The campaign, sponsored by the Irish Heart Found-ation, was designed to develop public awareness of the key symptoms of stroke: Has the face fallen to one side (F); can the person raise their arms (A); is speech slurred (S); and time to call 999 (T).

A study of the efficacy of the ad by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland found 59% more stroke victims got to hospital in time to receive thrombolysis treatment.

Dr Collins said Health Minister Simon Harris promised last year to find resources to rerun the FAST campaign.

In a statement, the Department of Health said:

This matter is currently being reviewed between the Department and the HSE.

Dr Collins said it also needs to invest in mid-life management of blood pressure and cholesterol, as there is a “worrying little trend that age of stroke in men in particular is dropping”.

“If we got those two things right, we would probably halve the incidence of stroke,” he said.

Dr Collins said he is concerned about the immigrant population, especially Asian and African males, as he had seen evidence of blood pressure-related diseases such as heart failure in young men.

This was something he had not seen since he was an intern 25 years ago, he said.

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