Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) public stroke campaign has been raising awareness of this important health issue amongst Qatar’s low-income workers.
The campaign, launched at the start of May, aims to raise public awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke and the correct action to take if one suspect a stroke.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of mortality and the number one cause of chronic disability in the world. Due to the high prevalence in Qatar’s population of many risk factors for stroke – including diabetes, smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and inactivity – the incidence of stroke is high. Notably, the average age of stroke patients in Qatar is far younger than would be seen in Europe or America. Many of these younger stroke patients are from Qatar’s expatriate low-income workers, as Dr. Naveed Akhtar, Director of HMC’s Stroke Ward explains: “Many of these workers come from countries with high smoking rates and they often have undiagnosed medical conditions that may be contributing factors for stroke, such as hypertension and diabetes.”
The awareness campaign uses the internationally-established F.A.S.T. message to highlight the major signs of stroke and reinforce the need to act quickly.
F – Face drooping: Has your face suddenly drooped on one side or do you have difficulty smiling?
A – Arm weakness: Are you unable to raise both arms?
S – Speech problems: Do you have difficulty speaking or being understood by other people?
T – Time is ticking: Call 999 immediately
As part of HMC’s efforts to raise awareness within Qatar’s low-income worker population, 50,000 water bottles with neck flyers featuring the F.A.S.T. message were handed out in labor camps in the Industrial Area, Al Khor and Al Seliya. Additionally, 360,000 flyers have been distributed across construction sites, money exchange outlets and Woqod petrol stations. All messaging was produced in multiple languages, including Urdu, Hindi and Malayalam.
“The messages are the same for the entire population of Qatar,” explains Dr. Akhtar. “Fast and specialized medical intervention is the key to successful treatment for stroke patients. Time is brain, meaning the faster treatment can be given following a stroke, the better the chances of recovery. To ensure stroke patients are treated quickly, it is vital that the public know the signs and symptoms of stroke so they can identify the issue and immediately call 999 for help,” he noted.
Professor Ashfaq Shuaib, Director of HMC’s Neurosciences Institute, explained the importance of the awareness campaign: “We have made great progress in recent years to restructure stroke care and develop a specialist Stroke Ward at Hamad General Hospital, ensuring patients are given the safest, most effective and most compassionate care possible. These changes have recently brought about significant improvements, including reducing the average length of stay for stroke patients and lowering the rate of complications. Yet there is still more that can be done. By working with the public through this campaign we can ensure more people are familiar with the signs and symptoms of stroke and know the correct action to take.”
Mr Ali Al Khater, HMC’s Executive Director of Corporate Communications, described the way in which the campaign has raised awareness throughout Qatar: “The first phase of the campaign is coming to a conclusion after a very successful initial period. The F.A.S.T. message has been promoted through radio and television commercials, advertising in newspapers, print media and online, and campaign messaging in shopping malls. The stroke awareness television commercials have been particularly impactful and have to date been viewed more than 250,000 times on our YouTube channel alone. Phase two of the campaign will begin after the summer and use similar channels to continue highlighting this important health message.”