Early recognition of stroke symptoms and warning signs is necessary to ensure acute hospital services are accessed rapidly. The Irish Heart Foundation launched a national stroke awareness campaign in May 2010 to educate the public on the warning signs of stroke so that when a stroke occurs individuals can act F.A.S.T. The campaign applies the acronym F.A.S.T. to educate the public on the focal signs of a stroke. Previous research investigating the effectiveness of public stroke awareness campaigns have shown mixed results. Differences may be attributed to the use of closed ended questions which are inclined to report greater levels of knowledge than those using open ended questions.
To explore the public¿s knowledge of the warning signs of stroke prior to a nationwide media stroke campaign.
Prior to the launch of the FAST campaign in Ireland, we conducted a survey to explore the public awareness of the warning signs of stroke. Data collection involved completion of an electronic questionnaire or a face to face interview by willing participants. Over 2,000 participants completed the survey which included both closed ended and open ended questions.Results:
Preliminary results highlight that the majority of participants identified the following stroke signs; sudden weakness or numbness in the face arm or leg especially on one side of the body, dizziness or loss of balance and difficulty speaking. Less recognizable symptoms were trouble seeing in one or both eyes and headache. The majority of participants reported that they would contact their General Practitioner rather than contact the Emergency Services if they experienced stroke symptoms.
There is a knowledge deficit among the general public about the early warning signs of stroke. Results of this study suggest that partcipiants would procrastinate in seeking emergency medical treament. Thrombolysis is time dependent and the message of prompt admission to hospital is crucial to prevent the devastating effects of stroke and optimise patient outcomes. Education campaigns such as the FAST campaign can only serve to increase public knowledge of the early warning signs of stroke.