Despite the enormous and growing burden of stroke, the disease does not receive the attention it deserves — including funds for prevention, management and research. In the context of an integrated approach to chronic disease, a Global Stroke Initiative has been formed involving WHO, the International Stroke Society and the World Federation of Neurology. The primary focus of this international collaboration will be to harness the necessary resources for implementing existing knowledge and strategies, especially in the middle and low income countries. The purpose of this strategy is threefold: to increase awareness of stroke; to generate surveillance data on stroke; and to use such data to guide improved strategies for prevention and management of stroke (20).
Each of these components is necessary to reduce the global stroke burden. The Global Stroke Initiative is only possible through a strong interaction between governments, national health authorities and society, including two major international nongovernmental organizations.
Increasing awareness and advocacy among policy-makers, health-care providers and the general public of the effect of stroke on society, health-care systems, individuals and families is fundamental to improving stroke prevention and management. Advocacy and awareness are also essential for the development of sustainable and effective responses at local, district and national levels. Policy-makers need to be informed of the major public health and economic threats posed by stroke as well as the availability of cost-effective approaches to both primary and secondary prevention of stroke. Health professionals require appropriate knowledge and skills for evidence-based prevention, acute care and rehabilitation of stroke. Relevant information needs to be provided to the public about the potential for modifying personal risk of strokes, the warning signs of impending strokes, and the need to seek medical advice in a timely manner.
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