Deakin University

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Do mass media campaigns capture and describe the experience of stroke symptoms?

conference contribution
posted on 2009-01-01, 00:00 authored by Janet Bray, Beverly O'Connell, A Gilligan, Trish LivingstonTrish Livingston, C Bladin
Introduction: In 2006, the National Stroke Foundation of Australia launched the FAST (Face, Arm, Speech)/ Signs of Stroke (SOS) (5 symptom categories) campaigns designed to improve public awareness of stroke symptoms and the sense of urgency to present to hospital. However, there is little published review of how well such campaigns capture and describe the experience of stroke. This study aims to examine the awareness, content and language of the FAST/SOS campaigns by those experiencing stroke symptoms.
Methods: Interviews were conducted with either the stroke patient or a witness (incapacitated patients) whilst an inpatient at Box Hill or Maroondah Hospitals between August 2006 through April 2008. They were asked to describe awareness of campaigns, symptoms experienced (recorded verbatim and coded into campaign symptom categories) and to evaluate the descriptions of “Signs of Stroke” against their own experience (exact, somewhat, or not at all).
Results: Of 239 eligible stroke cases, 167 (70%) were interviewed (100 patients and 67 witnesses). Few (n= 20, 12%) were aware of the FAST campaign and only 16% recalled all three symptoms. Most recalled that it was “something” to do with the face, however facial droop (n=6) was less commonly experienced compared to speech impairments (n=16) and arm drift (n=13). FAST symptoms detected 84% (patients 77% and witnesses 94%) and SOS symptoms 100% of stroke patients. Patients not describing a FAST symptom (n=27) described: arm or hand numbness; hand incoordination; leg impairments; vision disturbances; or collapse. Approximately, half of patients and witnesses thought the SOS descriptions of the most commonly detected symptoms (arm/leg/face weakness or paralysis or numbness and speech impairments) exactly described the experience. Common language used to describe symptoms were: incoordination of hands or limbs; sudden difficulty walking; drooped/dropped face or mouth; slurred or loss of speech; pins and needles or tingling.
Conclusion: Both campaigns identified symptoms most commonly detected in those experiencing and reacting to symptoms. Both campaigns could portray symptoms more realistically using common descriptors without impacting on the simplicity of the messages



International Stroke Conference (2009 :San Diego, California)


San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California

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