Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Do stroke awareness campaigns have an effect on calls made to ambulances?

Stroke Foundation - Australia's F.A.S.T. stroke awareness campaign
Dr Janet Bray and Dr Lahn Straney, Professor Judith Finn and Bill Barger from Ambulance Victoria have co-authored an article to evaluate the impact of campaigns through both paid and unpaid advertising on the number of calls to ambulances regarding stroke within Australia. They also sought to determine the duration of the impact and effect of paid advertising and regional fluctuations.

There have been several stroke awareness campaigns targeted at the general public, implemented by the National Stroke Foundation of Australia. Between 2004 and 2014, the Foundation ran 12 public media campaigns. The intentions of these campaigns are to boost awareness of the different symptoms of stroke and to encourage Australians to call ambulances upon noticing these symptoms. In order to measure the exposure and efficacy of these campaigns is through determining their impact on the number of emergency calls made to ambulances for stroke.

A previous study that Dr Bray co-authored explored the impact of these campaigns, focusing solely on Melbourne. The authors identified that there was a clear rise in the number of calls made to ambulances for stroke after the campaigns were employed; significantly in the years where the Foundation had received increased funding. However, this hasn’t been evaluated across Australia. As the amount of funding and exposure does vary in each state, results from this are important in determining the effect of funding and exposure on emergency calls.

The campaigns are run over a six week period, right after National Stroke Week. However, depending on funding accessibility (paid or pro bono), the intensity of the campaign and the reach does fluctuate. In 2014, the campaign received funding for the first time to be aired across the whole of Australia. The paid advertising included radio, newspaper, television and public transport advertising.

The authors utilised a cross-sectional study design on the monthly number of ambulance callouts for strokes, across all the states between January 2003 and June 2014. The authors conducted multivariable regression to evaluate the impact of the exposure on the number of emergency calls for stroke. All ambulance services provided this dispatch data and approval was received from the South Australian Department of Health and Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee.

The results from the study designs highlighted that out of the twelve campaigns run by the Foundation, eleven were linked to a rise in the number of emergency stroke calls (fluctuating between 1% to 9.9%) in the areas that were exposed to the advertisements. This was sustained for approximately three months. The authors also found that there was no increased effect of the campaigns on calls where the ambulance services are publicly funded.

The authors conclude that the National Stroke Foundation awareness campaigns are clearly associated with a rise in stroke-related emergency calls to ambulances, indicated that the where the campaigns are seeing advertising, it is proving effective in raising awareness. However, further research is needed to determine the increase in ambulance calls is being utilised in the correct situations.

You can read full article here:

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