World Stroke Day 2021: Survey finds 65% of hospitals worldwide do not provide “essential” stroke treatment

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On the eve of World Stroke Day (29 October), the World Stroke Organization (WSO) has called for urgent improvements to the treatment of stroke and increased awareness of symptoms. This comes after a survey it conducted in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) found that only 35% of hospitals across the globe provide treatment using tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)—despite it being added to the WHO essential medicines list two years ago.

Stroke remains the second biggest killer globally, according to a WSO press release, as 15 million people will have a stroke every year and 6.5 million of these people will die. The majority of stroke survivors also face a lifetime of disability or impairment as a result.

The release goes on to note that tPA is a highly efficacious and cost-effective treatment, but its provision is dependent on the establishment of specialist stroke units. While these units exist in 91% of higher income countries, this rate dips as low as 18% in some low-income countries. As such, patients in these poorer countries experience four times the rate of stroke-related death and disability compared to their high-income counterparts.

The WSO has launched its “Roadmap to Quality Stroke Care”—a platform that can be used in all settings to identify areas for improvement—and is urging healthcare professionals to take part in an effort to improve stroke services.

“People treated with tPA have a 31% higher recovery rate and can go on to lead independent lives,” said Sheila Martins, president-elect of the WSO. “It is shocking that 65% of hospitals still do not provide it. Hospitals must urgently prioritise the development of stroke units in order to administer tPA. Donors, industry, pharmaceutical companies and governments need to come together to prioritise stroke care units. We also need training for non-specialist doctors and nurses, particularly in low-income settings, to widen access to stroke ready hospitals.”

“We want everyone to learn the symptoms of stroke and recognise stroke as a medical emergency,” added WSO president Marc Fisher. “It is then vital that, when that call comes in, health providers can give everyone an equal chance of recovery.”

An open, livestreamed panel, entitled ‘No time to waste’, and hosted by journalist Rageh Omaar alongside Olympic gold medallist and stroke survivor Michael Johnson, and global stroke and public health experts, will discuss the future of stroke services worldwide, the release concludes.


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