Most strokes are caused by the blockage of arteries to the brain, leading to death of brain cells and loss of neurologic functioning such as weakness of a body part or inability to speak. As a result, it is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Stroke is also more common and more severe in minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics. A major problem is that individuals with stroke among many minorities not go to the hospital in time to receive treatments that can help lessen the damage from stroke. We want more minority communities to understand the importance of calling 911 for stroke to ensure people are taken to the hospital and given the correct medications right away.
Tackling this problem will take partnership with community groups that serve African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, to understand why people do not call 911 or go to the hospital right away after seeing or experiencing a stroke. We want to study this very important problem that is affecting Chicago’s South Side residents.
The study team plans to interview many representatives from local groups and ordinary people who live in these underserved and high-risk areas of Chicago to better understand the reasons for not acting quickly. Once we know why, we will try to create a community plan (Stroke Champion Program) to get the message out to the target population in the South Side of Chicago. We will teach community leaders from churches, schools, aldermen’s offices, hospitals, and other places about our program and to become Stroke Champions in their neighborhoods. They will then spread the message (“call 911 immediately for stroke”) and help people put aside reasons they might not want to call 911, such as feeling that no good can from it, that people won’t take them seriously, or that it will cost too much. To see if our program is actually working, we will then track how many stroke patients in two large South Side hospitals are brought in by ambulance and how many arrive within the first few hours of their stroke. To be certain that we are seeing a direct effect from our Stroke Champion program, we will compare this information with other hospitals in other neighborhoods of Chicago and also in St. Louis, where the Stroke Champion Program is not being administered. This will help us determine whether we can change people’s minds and get them to act on their own or a loved one’s behalf in a positive way.
If our Stroke Champion Program works, then more people with stroke will arrive to the hospital faster, get treated faster, and have less disability and handicap. Other parts of Chicago and other cities in the United States and around the world may learn from this study and also try to establish similar programs to help their residents fight stroke in their communities. We have teamed with patients, community leaders, and organizations to make sure that our project is centered on what is good for patients and the community.