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Waikato chosen to be FAST learners for stroke

Waikato chosen to be FAST learners for strokeWaikato residents will be the first in New Zealand to benefit from a large-scale public education campaign on how to recognise the symptoms of stroke.

Television and radio advertising of the F.A.S.T. message from Sunday 19 October aims to increase the number of people who can recognise a stroke when it happens and know what to do. The Stroke Foundation of New Zealand says that lives and livelihoods could be saved if more people knew a stroke when they saw one, and the F.A.S.T. message is a proven way of remembering the main symptoms.

“A third of New Zealanders are unable to name a single symptom of stroke correctly,” said SFNZ CEO Mark Vivian. “The campaign launched on Sunday will try to change that and make sure more stroke cases get to hospital quicker where they can receive treatment which might save their life or reduce the damage that stroke does.

“The meaning of FAST should trip off everyone’s tongue as easily as ‘slip-slop-slap’ and ‘drop, cover and hold’. It’s just as important and could save just as many lives as those well-known phrases.

“Other countries around the world such as Australia, USA and the UK have seen the value in funding significant advertising of the FAST message, so we hope that this campaign in the Waikato will persuade the government to finally bring it to the whole of New Zealand in a big way.”

F.A.S.T. stands for Face-Arm-Speech-Time. Face – is it drooping on one side? Arm – is one arm weak. Speech – is it jumbled or slurred or lost? Time – time is critical, call 111. The mnemonic aims to help people remember three of the most common symptoms of stroke.

The F.A.S.T. message has been used in New Zealand by the Stroke Foundation since the mid-2000s but without the funding to bring it to people’s attention via mass-market advertising. The proportion of New Zealanders able to name as many as three correct symptoms of stroke has remained stubbornly low (at 1 in 10) despite thousands of leaflets and posters displaying the message circulating for several years.

The new campaign is the first time television advertising has been used to promote the FAST message in New Zealand. The advert will play on TVNZ and Maori TV for six weeks from October 19. Radio advertising will also be heard throughout the region on Breeze, Radio Live, Classic Hits, Coast, Newstalk ZB, Te Reo O Tainui FM and The Sound. Advertising will be supported by public relations, community activities, and distribution of printed information leaflets and posters.


For further information contact:
Fraser Pettigrew, Communications and Promotions Manager
04 815 8124 / 027 506 9822

Notes to editors:

Stroke facts and figures

  • Stroke is the third largest killer in New Zealand after heart disease and cancer.
  • Each year around 9,000 people have a stroke – that’s around 24 New Zealanders every day.
  • Each year over 2,500 people die from stroke.
  • A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain, causing brain cell damage. Basically, it is a brain attack.
  • Disabilities from stroke make it one of the highest consumers of hospital beds, services and community support in this country.
  • There are an estimated 60,000 stroke survivors in New Zealand, many of whom have disability and need significant daily support.
  • An estimated 15% of all stroke survivors are institutionalised.
  • Up to half of all stroke cases could be treated with clot-busting drugs (thrombolysis or tPa) if they arrive within three hours of the stroke’s onset at a hospital where they can be scanned and given the drugs. In many cases this can reduce the damage done by the stroke or even reverse the symptoms entirely.
  • All stroke patients can benefit from stroke unit care to maximise recovery and prevent recurrence of stroke.
  • Lifetime costs per stroke patient in New Zealand were estimated in 2009 at $73,600 per person, with a total cost to the country of over $450 million annually. If trends in incidence and mortality continued (which they have), the number of people living with stroke was estimated to reach 50,000 by 2015, with overall annual costs of more than $700 million (Stroke Foundation, Clinical Guidelines for Stroke Management 2010). But the Ministry of Health estimated in 2007 that stroke survivors in NZ could already number nearly 60,000 (Portrait of Health 2006/07).

Recognising stroke symptoms

  • Delayed recognition of a stroke means delayed medical intervention – which can have tragic consequences, including further damage to the brain or death.
  • In 2007 and 2010, the Stroke Foundation commissioned research to assess the general public’s ability to recognise the signs of stroke and to act appropriately if a stroke is suspected.
  • The results from both surveys showed that at least one third of New Zealanders were unable to recognise even one sign of stroke.
  • Only about 10 percent of respondents could recognise three correct signs of stroke.


FAST stands for:

  • FACE – Is their face drooping on one side? Is their mouth crooked? Can they smile?
  • ARM – Is one arm weak? Can they raise both arms?
  • SPEECH – Is their speech or words jumbled or slurred? Can they speak at all?
  • TIME – Time is critical. Call 111.

Get help FAST. CALL 111. A stroke is an emergency.

The FAST acronym was developed by stroke researchers in the United States in the late 1990s as an effective way for people to recognise three key stroke symptoms and to act fast if a stroke is suspected. Subsequent evaluation of the FAST message by researchers in the US found it sufficient to pick up 88.9 percent of strokes and TIAs (mini strokes).

Other international evaluations of FAST have found that it is an effective mnemonic for increasing and retaining knowledge of the key signs of stroke and the importance of acting fast.

Large scale mass-media publicity campaigns to spread the FAST message have been launched successfully in several countries, including the UK, Australia and the USA. Australia last year announced a further A$2million extension to their campaign. Evaluations in Australia, the UK and Ireland have shown increased public recognition of stroke symptoms and increased stroke calls to emergency services following advertising campaign activity.

For more information on stroke see www.stroke.org.nz

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