The FAST campaign is back – and this year there’s a new look and message to the life-saving stroke awareness campaign.
For the last two years, FAST has stood for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 111.
This year, Time has been replaced with Take action – call 111.
“While people have taken on board the main signs of stroke, we want to really underline that a stroke is a medical emergency – a brain attack – and to get help immediately,” says Stroke Foundation CEO Mark Vivian.
“We don’t want people calling their doctor, or waiting for symptoms to pass. Anywhere in the country, young or old, please call 111 immediately and get help. You’re not being a bother – the ambulance staff want to get that call!”
Taking action immediately gives a stroke patient the best chance of making a strong recovery.
That’s because clot-dissolving drugs (thrombolysis) and clot retrieval technology (thrombectomy) can halt and reverse the damage caused by stroke. But they must be administered as soon as possible.
Before last year’s FAST campaign, St John was attending approximately 160 suspected stroke incidents every week. During the campaign the average rose to 196 incidents per week – an increase of 22% – peaking at 231 incidents in one week. Likewise, the average number of call-outs confirmed as strokes increased from 45 per week before the campaign to 52 during a week in July.
“We’ve heard from people who saw the FAST message, never expecting to use it – then found it helped them save someone after a stroke,” Mr Vivian says.
“That’s why everyone needs to learn FAST.”
To reinforce the “Take action” message, the design of the FAST message has changed slightly, with the T of FAST now appearing in a green circle.
“Green for go – get to the phone as soon as possible,” Mr Vivian says.
The three-month FAST campaign is a partnership between the Stroke Foundation, Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Agency and will consist of television and radio ads, as well as online messages.
The Māori community and Pasifika communities are a particular focus for the campaign, although everyone should learn the FAST message.
The campaign follows recent research by Otago University predicting a sharp rise in stroke cases over the next decade, unless better prevention measures are put in place.