World Stroke Day highlights the importance of prevention and equity in treatment access

By Our Reporter

Stroke remains one of the most formidable healthcare challenges, leading the list as the primary cause of disability around the world. According to statistics, more than 12 million people suffer from strokes each year, but this bleak picture has a glimmer of hope: up to 90% of these strokes are preventable. As World Stroke Day approaches on Sunday, 29 October, experts underline the crucial role of prevention and equitable access to treatment.

Professor Dominique Cadilhac, Co-director and Research Lead of the Stroke and Ageing Research Group at Monash University, emphasises the necessity for primary prevention at the public health level. While there have been substantial advances in stroke treatments, these alone are not sufficient. A concerted public health effort is vital, alongside research into new therapies to reduce disability and community-based programmes to assist stroke survivors and their caregivers.

In line with this, data from the Australian Stroke Clinical Registry reveals a rather sobering aspect of stroke aftermath: three in four Australian survivors face long-term health impacts. These range from mobility issues to self-care difficulties, and even extend to mental health problems like anxiety and depression. The solution lies not just in aftercare but crucially in timely intervention. Recognising the signs of stroke and acting quickly to get medical help can substantially mitigate the lifelong repercussions of this debilitating condition.

Associate Professor Monique Kilkenny, Head of Big Data, Epidemiology, and Prevention Division at the Stroke and Ageing Research Group, holds that prevention remains a cornerstone in reducing the stroke burden worldwide. Financial commitments from governments in the form of levies on tobacco, alcohol, salt and sugar can significantly contribute to stroke prevention efforts. With digital solutions such as the ‘Love Your Brain’ initiative, a collaboration between Monash University, the Stroke Foundation and the University of Tasmania, people can be engaged and empowered to adopt healthier choices and behaviours.

Stroke is often called a ‘silent killer,’ affecting not just the individual but rippling through families and straining healthcare systems. One in four people is expected to have a stroke in their lifetime. Yet most strokes (80%) are preventable, a fact reinforced by Dr Lachlan Dalli, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Stroke and Ageing Research Group. Small lifestyle adjustments like eating healthier, quitting smoking, and regular health check-ups can make a big difference.

World Stroke Day serves as a poignant reminder for collective action. It calls on individuals, communities and governments to prioritise stroke prevention. This is not just a healthcare issue but a societal challenge that requires multi-dimensional solutions and global cooperation. By 2050, the number of stroke survivors could exceed 200 million if no action is taken, which underlines the urgency of the situation.

The campaign calls for an international commitment to improve stroke outcomes by allocating healthcare resources effectively and increasing public awareness. Utilising digital platforms for active engagement and education could be a game-changer in this mission. So as we mark World Stroke Day, let’s collectively take a stand against stroke by focusing on prevention, improving treatment access, and embracing innovation for a future that is #GreaterThan stroke.

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