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Combating stroke in South Africa

be aware of a strokeIn 2014, stroke took the lives of over 23 000 South Africans, with one person diagnosed every six minutes. Despite the estimated 132000 strokes a year occurring in South Africa, stroke care is inadequate for current patient needs, says Dr Feroza Motara, Emergency Physician, University of Witwatersrand.

To combat this life-threatening medical emergency, leading pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), is launching the Angels Initiative (https://angels-initiative.com), a fully funded stroke-awareness and care initiative, aimed at making South Africa’s hospitals stroke-ready.

Tim Snell, General Manager at Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) South Africa, says: “In South Africa, 1 in 3 people diagnosed with acute stroke will die and 1 in 4 will be left with a life-changing disability. Many of these patients may have been saved and gone on to live lives free from disability, if they had received appropriate care in a stroke-ready facility better equipped to deal with this life-threatening medical emergency.”

The Angels Initiative aims to increase stroke awareness and education across South Africa’s diverse communities and to provide best practice guidance, training and equipment to healthcare professionals, standardising the availability and quality of stroke-readiness and care within South Africa’s hospitals. The ambitious goal of the Angels Initiative is to register 165 stroke-ready units across the country by November 2019.

Dr Motara, who is also a member of the Angels Initiative Steering Committee, highlights stroke as the second leading cause of mortality and leading cause of disability in South Africa and confirms the immediate need for an updated approach and clinical interventions in diagnosis, treatment, care and rehabilitation of stroke patients.

“Our burden of risk factors for stroke is among the highest in the world,” says Dr Motara. “This initiative, with its full scientific and financial backing is of paramount importance to the future health of South Africans, where heart disease and stroke incidence often affects adults in their most productive years. The high economic costs of stroke, including escalated staff turnover and absenteeism, impact greatly on productivity and add to the already unsustainable economic burden on our healthcare system.”

Launched in Cape Town during November 2016 to representatives from 40 private and 10 government hospitals, as well as head office representatives of various cardiovascular and stroke-focused organisations, Angels Initiative has set the tone for a simplified, co-ordinated approach to stroke care in South Africa, aimed purely at ensuring timely, broader access to appropriate, structured stroke care that gives life a chance.

About ischaemic stroke

Ischaemic stroke, the interruption of blood flow in the brain, is a medical emergency often resulting in permanent disability or death. Acute stroke care aims at restoring the blood supply to the area of the brain affected by the stroke as quickly as possible. Time is the most critical aspect for acute stroke care, as every minute after a stroke, 2 million brain cells can be lost permanently. Guidelines recommend that stroke patients are treated in specialized stroke units by a dedicated team and that treatment should be initiated as quickly as possible, ideally within 60 minutes after arrival in the hospital. This has been shown to reduce mortality, disability, complications and length of hospital stay, and leads to more independence and a higher possibility for the patient to return to their own home.

About Boehringer Ingelheim

Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, Boehringer Ingelheim operates presently with a total of some 50,000 employees worldwide.

The focus of the family-owned company, founded in 1885, is on researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing new medications of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine. Social responsibility is an important element of the corporate culture at Boehringer Ingelheim. This includes worldwide involvement in social projects through, for example, the initiative “Making More Health” while also caring for employees. Respect, equal opportunity and reconciling career and family form the foundation of mutual cooperation. The company also focuses on environmental protection and sustainability in everything it does. In 2015, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of about 14.8billion euros. R&D expenditure corresponds to 20.3 per cent of net sales. For more information please visit www.boehringer-ingelheim.com.

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