More guarantees needed for stroke victims

The Stroke Foundation has welcomed the Federal Government’s 2018 Budget record investment in health (announced May 9) and called for a targeted focus on support for Australians to avoid and recover from stroke.

The Government’s commitment to essential services provided reassurance, but for the Australians who will suffer more than 56,000 strokes this year and their families, more is needed.

It was encouraging to see the continued commitment to improving the health of Australians through funding to our hospitals, Medicare and pharmaceutical benefits systems.

However it is important to recognise not all access is equal.

Currently, there is no guarantee all Australians will have access to the best practice stroke care we know saves lives and reduces disability.  In fact we know many will not.

Research shows regional Australians were 19 per cent more likely to have a stroke than their metropolitan counterparts and are also more likely to die from a stroke or be left with an ongoing disability simply because they do not have access to specialist stroke treatment and care.

There is an enormous opportunity to improve health services for rural and regional Australia by utilising digital health technologies and establishing a national telehealth network.

Too many Australians are dying or being left with an ongoing disability as a result of stroke.

Patient outcomes vary depending on where you live and your access to time-critical treatment. This needs to change.

A national telehealth network will remove geographical barriers and improve access to not only time-critical stroke treatment but diagnosis and treatment of other conditions.

There is one stroke in Australia every nine minutes, yet up to 80pc of strokes could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Chronic disease is Australia’s biggest health challenge.

Regular exercise, healthy eating, and managing blood pressure will go a long way to preventing stroke and reducing the associated spiraling costs to the health system and economy.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Government to deliver Australian families much needed guarantees.

Sharon McGowan, 

CEO, Stroke Foundation