School-based programs could increase stroke awareness among low-income minorities, based on a recent study that found an interactive three-hour program helped teach students and their parents about stroke prevention and treatment.
Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study tested a stroke education program at 22 public schools in New York City. The program taught students about the signs of stroke and empowered the children to share these lessons with their parents.
The intervention was specifically tailored for disadvantaged inner-city schools, where many students come from low-income, minority families. Low-income minorities face especially high risk for stroke. Experts hoped the program would help increase awareness for stroke prevention and treatment in these disadvantaged communities.
Altogether, the study included 3,070 middle-school students from 22 schools, as well as 1,144 of the students’ parents. However, only half of the schools received the three-hour stroke intervention, while the other half received standard health classes.
The intervention used a combination of hip hop music, cartoons, video games and comic books to teach kids about stroke in three one-hour sessions. Through the intervention, students learned the warning signs of stroke, as well as the importance of calling 911 at the first sign of any symptoms. The program also educated students about ways to prevent stroke and encouraged students to share the information with their parents.
Overall, authors found the program was extremely successful at improving stroke awareness among both students and their parents.
At the start of the study, only 1–2% of students and 3% of parents knew the warning signs of stroke.
These warning signs are summarized by the acronym FAST, which stands for face (facial drooping), arms (inability to raise ones arm fully), speech (difficulty understanding or producing speech) and time (the importance of calling 911 immediately with any of these symptoms).
However, after the intervention, 57% of students in the intervention group and 20% of their parents were able to identify stroke symptoms, compared with 1–3% among controls.
A three-month follow-up also showed that children and adults were able to retain the information, with 24% of students in the intervention group and 17% of their parents still remembering the signs of stroke.
The increased awareness among parents was especially promising, as the parents did not participate in any special programming through the study. Any information that parents learned was from their child and the homework activities that students brought home.
Authors also note that by the end of the study, four children—all of whom were in the intervention group—called 911 for real-life stroke symptoms. In one of these cases, the child even overruled the parent’s wish to delay calling 911, likely as a result of the education they received.
Based on findings, authors believe the program could increase stroke awareness among low-income minorities. Research shows that 80% of strokes are preventable and immediate treatment increases chances of survival. Teaching children about stroke prevention and treatment, like through interactive classes, may prove useful in improving outcomes and reducing health disparities.