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Many Unaware of Local Stroke Centers

Residents in U.S. 'stroke belt' are among least informed, survey finds

TUESDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, yet a new survey of 1,000 Americans finds that nearly 60 percent don't known if their local hospitals offer specialized treatment for stroke.

Despite awareness efforts, "the public seems less aware of stroke-certified hospitals," Dr. Ralph Sacco, president-elect of the American Heart Association, said in a news release from the American Stoke Association. "The survey results show the need for continuous reinforcement of public education to maintain awareness of the stroke warning signs and symptoms as well as the importance of stroke specialty hospitals. This issue must be at the top of everyone's minds."

More than 640 primary stroke centers have been certified in the United States by the Joint Commission, a private, nonprofit organization, and others have been certified by other agencies.

Researchers found that few people in the Southeast and the Mississippi Valley know about local hospitals that specialize in stroke care. Those areas form what is known as the Stroke Belt because of a high stroke rate.

"Everyone should know the stroke warning signs, call 911 if you or your loved one is having a stroke and know which hospitals are better equipped to handle strokes," Sacco said. "If certification is not feasible for rural or other underserved area hospitals, then we will explore linking them with primary stroke centers through telemedicine to increase patient access to stroke specialists and eliminate disparities in access to acute stroke care."

The survey was commissioned by the American Stroke Association, a division of the Heart Association.

More information

For more about stroke, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Stroke Association, news release, May 3, 2010

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