Stroke Smart Northern Virginia

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Provided by Northern Virginia Emergency Medical Services Council, Inc.

Stroke Smart communities are forming across the Commonwealth, especially in Northern Virginia. The Northern Virginia Emergency Medical Services (NVEMS) Council has been tasked by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to reduce death and disability from strokes through a campaign called Stroke Smart. This public education campaign starts with a formal proclamation from each jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, March 1, Mayor Jeanette Rishell of the City of Manassas Park became the first executive in our region to embrace this cause, part of a statewide program launched in 2021 and based on the Stroke Smart Alexandria 2017 pilot. This video, featuring former Gov. Northam, illustrates Alexandria’s methods and Virginia’s motivation.

The Challenge

Strokes are the #1 cause of long-term disability in the U.S. and will be suffered by one in six people.  Although effective treatment can leave the patient with no lasting effects, fewer than 10% of stroke patients access that treatment in time, often because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke. The Council intends to educate everyone who lives, works, prays, and plays in Northern Virginia to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke and to call 911 when they spot a stroke or are unsure. Symptoms can come and go, may be different for each person depending on the part of the brain affected, and may mimic other healthcare concerns. Sudden onset of dizziness, nausea, balance problems, vision changes, body weakness, and numbness are common stroke symptoms.

The Methodology

The Council begins by asking the executive branch of each jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to proclaim that their jurisdiction will be Stroke Smart. Using VDH funded magnets and wallet cards, and Council-supplied presentations, experts, flyers, and talking points, the executive educates their staff and opens the doors to larger audiences. Council-formed, citizen-led Stroke Smart advocacy groups, composed of business leaders, stroke survivors, medical professionals, and anyone interested in reducing death and disability from strokes brings the message into their communities. Many who suffer from strokes cannot call 911 for themselves; a Stroke Smart city becomes the safest place for those suffering a stroke as those around them will quickly recognize the signs and symptoms and call 911.

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