Researchers Show That Stroke Awareness Programs Are Effective; Also Find That Women Are More Likely To Get The Message

February 07, 1998

Brian Henry or Trish Moreis
AHA News Media Relations
Omni Rosen Hotel
(407) 370-6151
NR 98-4850 (StrokeConf/Dornan)*
Abstract 84

ORLANDO, Feb. 7 -- Through a public awareness campaign, researchers in Normal, Ill. were able to significantly improve people's knowledge of stroke warning signs and, in the process, found that women were more apt to listen to stroke messages than men.

Their research was presented here today at the American Heart Association's 23rd International Joint Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation.

In a five-month span, researchers from the Central Illinois Neuroscience Foundation were able to reduce by nearly 50 percent the number of people surveyed who could not name any stroke warning sign. Additionally, there was a dramatic increase in stroke awareness of women after the public awareness campaign, but hardly any change in men surveyed.

"Women rate having a significant motor skill problem following a stroke, worse than death itself. For men, death would be the worst possible outcome," says Wayne Dornan, Ph.D., associate professor at Illinois Wesleyan University and director of Pre-Clinical Research at the Central Illinois Neuroscience Foundation.

"If you're more fearful of having a permanent disability than you are of dying, you tend to listen very closely and learn to do things to prevent a stroke," he says.

In their two-phase study, the researchers assessed public knowledge of stroke by randomly sampling 1,314 people by telephone in the cities of Bloomington and Normal in central Illinois. The survey consisted of an open-ended question asking people if they could name any warning signs for stroke.

Researchers found that 43 percent of those surveyed could not name one warning sign. Slightly more than half (52.9 percent) of men were stumped, but only 33.1 percent of women couldn't name a warning sign. In the age groups at highest risk of stroke, 66 percent of those between the ages of 55-65 and 38 percent of those between 66-75 could not name a warning sign.

"We have just embarked on a couple of experimental clinical trials for stroke in our community, and we realized very quickly that people were not getting to the hospital on time," says Ann Stroink, M.D., a neurosurgeon and co-author of the study. "Not surprisingly, the results of our survey explained why. To have a successful stroke program, we realized that we would have to do something about public awareness."

In a five-month span in 1997, the researchers embarked upon an exhaustive campaign to raise awareness of local residents about the warning signs of stroke. Their campaign focused on meetings with medical professionals and community groups as well as raising media visibility of stroke as an emergency. Through these meetings and a fairly continuous flow of stories in local media, the researchers were able to reach a large amount of the area population, which is slightly more than 100,000 in the two cities combined.

A second survey conducted five months after the first was used to assess the effectiveness of the campaign. An additional 1,216 people were randomly sampled. The results of the second survey revealed a significant increase in public knowledge of stroke warning signs. For example, only 22 percent sampled in the second survey could not name one warning sign compared to 43 percent in the first.

Overall knowledge of stroke warning signs increased, most notably in people over age 50. The analysis revealed that a significant gender difference in knowledge of warning signs in that only 19 percent of females did not know any warning signs (compared to 33.1 percent in the first study). There was only a slight change in the males surveyed.

The American Heart Association has developed a similar program -- the Metro Stroke Task Force -- which is being conducted in five major metropolitan areas. The program's goal is to raise community awareness of stroke. A survey of 200 people was conducted in each area at the beginning of the program. After a year, the survey will be repeated to measure awareness of stroke and stroke warning signs.

Co-authors include Edward W. Pegg III, M.D.; Keith A. Kattner, M.D.; Kundan L. Gupta, M.D.; Curtis J. Hayden, M.D.; and Herman J. Dick, M.D., Central Illinois Neuroscience Foundation, Illinois Wesleyan University, BroMenn Regional Medical Center, Normal, Ill.
Media advisory: Dr. Dornan can be reached at (800) 997-2463. (Please do not publish telephone numbers.)

American Heart Association

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