Mass-media advertising can encourage more people experiencing stroke symptoms to go to the hospital more quickly, according to a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. After a Canadian public awareness campaign on stroke signs, more people presented at hospital emergency departments with stroke, and the effect was particularly striking for the type of stroke known as transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke, said Corinne Hodgson, M.A., M.Sc., lead investigator of the study and an Ontario-based consulting epidemiologist for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Because the warning signs of TIA are temporary, many people dont seek immediate medical attention, she said. Getting more people with TIAs to emergency departments is a critical opportunity for stroke prevention, because a TIA is often a precursor to a major stroke. The campaign was unique on three fronts. First, there was access to a registry of emergency room stroke visits. Second, the use of ongoing public polling research to track awareness over time and third, the convergence of corporate mass media campaign strategies and tactics utilized to communicate health promotion messages, said co-author Frank Rubini of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario conducted two province-wide television advertising campaigns on the warning signs of stroke, targeting adults age 45 and older. The first campaign ran from October 2003 to June 2004 and the second from December 2004 to July 2005. The Government of Ontario provided funds to air the campaign.
The ads featured the five warning signs of stroke with the word sudden overlaid sudden weakness, sudden trouble speaking, sudden vision problems, sudden severe headache, sudden dizziness. A voiceover encouraged viewers to call 9-1-1 or their local emergency number if they experienced any symptoms.