How COVID-19 Exacerbated Existing Disparities

IN A NUTSHELL
Author's note
 

This article explores the profound effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on existing health inequalities, highlighting how it has intensified disparities in access to healthcare, socio-economic factors, and health outcomes among different demographic groups

By Nicolás Castillo

Biochemical. Private Laboratory Santa Clara de Saguier Sanatorium, Santa Fe, Argentina 

Impact of the Pandemic on Health Inequalities: How COVID-19 Exacerbated Existing Disparities

 

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a magnifier of pre-existing health inequalities, exposing and exacerbating deep-seated gaps in global healthcare systems and disproportionately affecting marginalized communities. This article explores how the health crisis has intensified pre-existing health disparities worldwide, highlighting socioeconomic, geographical, and structural factors that have influenced the spread of the virus, healthcare system responses, and consequences for vulnerable groups.

Pre-existing Health Inequalities Before the Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, many regions of the world faced significant disparities in access to healthcare and health outcomes. Factors such as geographical location, socioeconomic status, race, and gender exerted significant influence over the quality and availability of healthcare services, exacerbating disparities in life expectancy, rates of chronic diseases, and infant mortality.

  • Geographical Location: Limited access to healthcare services in rural and remote areas due to inadequate infrastructure and medical resources.
  • Socioeconomic Status: Financial barriers hindering access to medical services and essential medications, especially for those in poverty.
  • Race and Gender: Disparities in medical treatment and care based on racial and gender identity, reflecting inequalities in early diagnosis and quality of care received.

Impact of COVID-19 on Vulnerable Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted marginalized and vulnerable communities, exacerbating existing health disparities and widening gaps in access to healthcare, resources, and resilience capacity.

  • Essential Workers: High exposure to the virus among essential workers in sectors such as healthcare, transportation, and services, due to precarious working conditions and lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Overcrowded Housing: Difficulty in practicing social distancing in overcrowded housing, leading to increased virus spread and case incidence.
  • Limited Access to Healthcare: Barriers to COVID-19 testing, adequate treatment, and medical follow-up due to lack of accessible healthcare facilities and medical resources.

Uneven Healthcare System Responses

Healthcare systems worldwide have faced significant challenges in their capacity to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, revealing disparities in preparedness, response capability, and access to adequate healthcare services.

  • Hospital Capacity: Overload of hospitals in densely populated urban areas, with limited resources and exhausted medical staff.
  • Medical Resources and PPE: Initial shortages and uneven distribution of critical supplies such as PPE, ventilators, and medications, affecting proper patient care.
  • Inequalities in Vaccine Distribution: Unequal access to vaccines between high-income and low-income countries, exacerbating disparities in global immunization efforts and pandemic response.

Socioeconomic Impact and Economic Inequalities

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating economic consequences, exacerbating economic inequalities and disproportionately affecting informal workers, small businesses, and people living in poverty.

  • Job Losses and Livelihoods: Severe economic impact on vulnerable sectors such as tourism, hospitality, and the informal economy, resulting in increased poverty and food insecurity.
  • Limited Access to Social Safety Nets: Gaps in coverage and access to social benefits, exacerbating economic and social vulnerability.
  • Digital Inequalities: Limitations in access to online education, remote work, and telemedicine due to lack of technological infrastructure and digital skills in marginalized communities.

Challenges and Opportunities for Recovery and Resilience

Despite unprecedented challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has also presented opportunities to more effectively address health inequalities and build more equitable and resilient global healthcare systems.

  • Healthcare System Reform: Implementation of policies and strategies to strengthen public health infrastructure, improve access to essential medical services, and reduce disparities in healthcare delivery.
  • Innovation and Technology: Use of digital technologies and telemedicine platforms to enhance access to healthcare, especially in remote and underserved areas.
  • International Collaboration: Global cooperation to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines and medical resources, promoting global solidarity and coordinated response to future health emergencies.

Conclusions

In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the urgent need to address existing health inequalities and strengthen global healthcare systems to ensure a more equitable and effective response to future crises. Post-pandemic recovery efforts must focus on inclusive policies that address socioeconomic and structural gaps that have exacerbated vulnerability among marginalized populations. It is crucial to learn from lessons learned during the pandemic and redouble efforts to build a healthier and more equitable future for all.

References

  1. World Health Organization. (2020). Addressing inequity: The root of the problem. Retrieved from https://media.un.org/unifeed/en/asset/d259/d2595376
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). COVID-19 and health equity. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/index.html
  3. Marmot, M., Allen, J., Goldblatt, P., Herd, E., & Morrison, J. (2020). Build back fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review. Retrieved from https://www.health.org.uk/publications/build-back-fairer-the-covid-19-marmot-review
  4. Berkowitz, S. A., Cené, C. W., Chatterjee, A., & Covid-19, Health Equity, and the Promise of Community-Driven Reform. (2021). New England Journal of Medicine, 384(5), 455-457. doi:10.1056/NEJMp2024056
  5. Farmer, P., & Maskalyk, J. (2021). Pandemics and social inequalities. The Lancet, 397(10218), 1684-1685. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00894-4

 

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Holistic Systemic Change to Care for All Life on Earth

IN A NUTSHELL
Editor's note PEAH is pleased to turn the spotlight on a just received note by our acknowledged partner* Dr. George Lueddeke, Global Lead International One Health for One Planet Education & Trandisciplinarity Initiative (1 HOPE-TDI)

George Lueddeke

By George LueddekePhD

Consultant in Higher, Medical, and One Health Education

Global Lead – International One Health for One Planet Education initiative (1 HOPE)

Originally from Canada, now residing in the United Kingdom, George Lueddeke PhD MEd Dipl.AVES (Hon.) is an education advisor in Higher, Medical and One Health education and global lead of the international One Health for One Planet Education initiative (1 HOPE) in association with national, regional, and global organisations

Holistic Systemic Change to Care for All Life on Earth

 

Here is a link to the recently – launched All Life Institute website and brochure that might be of interest to PEAH affiliates / colleagues.

The Institute is “a global think tank based in Washington D.C. that is uniquely dedicated to protecting and enhancing all life on this planet including humans, nonhumans and the Earth.”

Three fundamental truths (imperatives?) appear on the introductory page:

  • “All that we do depends upon abundant plant and animal life as well as clean air and water.”
  • “Our collective future depends upon the decisions that we are making now.”
  • “What is good for nonhumans and the Earth is virtually always in the best interests of humans, given the profound interdependence of all life.”

Embedding  these  themes across  22-23 September 2024 UN Summit of the Future  ‘Pact for the Future’ and ‘Declaration on Future Generations’  implementation  strategies, including enabling actions, seems especially timely and highly relevant  in developing  “a collective understanding that we need a new way of thinking that safeguards our futures” and  building “the anticipatory governance this century demands” (Wales Protocol For Future Generations – from Declaration to Implementation). 

In addition, promoting holistic “systemic change” (e.g., 1 HOPE-TDR) by cultivating “an active care for the world and with those with whom we share it” (UNESCO) could help strengthen engagement of Member States and other stakeholders in pre and post – Summit of the Future discussions.

Image credit: All Life Institute

 

PEAH readers are invited to comment on the content and suggestions of this post   

 

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*By George Lueddeke on PEAH 

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INTERVIEW: Liele Netsanet, Gainhopes organization, Ethiopia

Gainhopes is a visionary non-profit organization founded in 2021 by Dr. Liele Netsanet Desta with the mission to empower women and provide them with the resources and opportunities they need to overcome obstacles and reach their full potential.  Based at Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, Gainhopes believes that when women are empowered, they can transform not only their own lives, but also those of their families and communities as a ripple effect of progress that uplifts families, societies, and beyond. 

In this connection, PEAH had the pleasure to interview Dr. Liele Netsanet as Founder and CEO at Gainhopes.

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 Liele Netsanet

 Founder and CEO at GainhopesEthiopia

Vision of a world where leadership knows no bounds and women are empowered to rise and shine

 

PEAH: Dr. Netsanet, what kinds of challenges do women face in Ethiopia?

  Netsanet: In Ethiopia, traditional and cultural negative beliefs of society  discourage and overlook the rights and abilities of women. In a country where women’s rights and potential are not regarded as privileges, they frequently face various challenging situations. These include sexual abuse, early marriage, female genital mutilation, and diminished educational and healthcare access. Additionally, the lack of job opportunities and limited access to economic resources pose further obstacles for women in Ethiopia.

PEAH: As a non-profit organization, Gainhopes is dedicated to women’s empowerment, fostering an inclusive world where women thrive. Its initiatives support women from diverse backgrounds, providing resources and mentorship to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. Practically, how do you do it?

Netsanet: At Gainhopes, we believe that empowering women is directly creating positive change in the world.  Supporting women is strengthening a family and the community at large. Gainhopes is committed to transform the lives of women through different initiatives in the areas of economic empowerment, educational and improved healthcare access.

Due to the current political instability and ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, Gainhopes is mainly focused on empowering women in conflict-affected areas, internally displaced, and those living with HIV/AIDS. To address this, we are running multiple projects to provide economic security through skill training and capacity building to enable disabled women to achieve long-term financial stability. Additionally, we are engaging in projects to promote healthcare provision and initiatives.

In addition to these economic empowerment efforts, Gainhopes also advocates and protects for rights of women with disabilities. We believe that all women, regardless of their circumstances, deserve the opportunity to have and reach their full potential. 

PEAHHow many women is Gainhopes currently looking after? 

Netsanet: Currently, Gainhopes provides regular support to 101 women. Additionally, the organization is piloting various projects aimed at enhancing its support and empowering up to 350 women.

PEAHSomething more about Gainhopes mission and vision?

Netsanet: As a visionary nonprofit organization that aims at women empowerment, we have multiple goals and missions to broaden through our projects. In the coming two years, we will expand our vision to promote reproductive and adolescent health. Additionally, we aim to prevent the rate of unsafe abortion by collaborating with the Ethiopian Family Planning Center and respective organizations.

– PEAHAt Gainhopes you emphasize that integrity, insight, and inclusiveness are the cornerstone values for empowering women. Can you detail?

Netsanet: Gainhopes takes integrity, insight, and inclusiveness as pillars of sustainable growth and development of society. Community problems are addressed with careful analysis of challenges through a comprehensive insight into societal issues. The second step should be integrity and inclusiveness to reach common interests and solve existing problems. The implementation of integrity provides transparency and accountability which fosters better decision-making activity. In the approach of inclusivity, multiple stakeholders will get the opportunity to participate in addressing societal challenges.

PEAHAs for the results achieved by Gainhopes so far?

Netsanet: Gainhopes has been tirelessly supporting and empowering women through multiple initiatives. The organization regularly provides basic needs for low-income women with HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, it fosters long-standing financial security by offering skill training to displaced women, which is a means for their economic independence. Additionally, it has systems of advocacy for disabled women who experienced sexual abuse.

PEAHDoes Gainhopes cooperate with national and/or international partners?

Netsanet: Yes, Gainhopes networks with both domestic and international NGOs. Additionally, it cooperates with civic societies

 PEAHWhat are your own duties, tasks and challenges inside Gainhopes organization? 

Netsanet: As CEO of nonprofit organization that aims at empowering women, I do have multiple tasks to address and manage in a daily basis. In the organization, I have the following key responsibilities:

  1. Formulating strategic plans to guide the organization’s vision and goals.
  2. Drafting and managing annual budget.
  3. Handling internal and external communications.
  4. Overseeing the implementation of new projects and initiatives.

The major challenges I have encountered are:

  1. Insufficient funding to support our initiatives
  2. Lack of volunteers who will devote in project implementation and other organizational activities.
  3. The ongoing conflict and political instability in Ethiopia has posed significant challenges in my organization.

PEAHThanks for having taken the time to share on Gainhopes strong humanitarian commitment

 

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Unmasking Gender Inequities in Health: Research Findings & A Roadmap to Gender-Equitable UHC

IN A NUTSHELL
Editor's note In this article, the Author takes into account the results from a new study, published in The Lancet, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which emphasizes the importance of considering sex and gender differences in health outcomes, while facing Health Inequity that weakens the value of Public Health.

As the Author maintains, ‘to dismantle the systemic barriers perpetuating gender inequities in health, we must adopt a multifaceted approach that includes sub-national analysis as a critical tool’. 

In such an endeavour, investing in data, empowering communities, building capacity, reforming policies and challenging norms must serve as not to be given up pillars.

By Philip J Gover BA MA MPH

Public Health Consultant, Cooperation Works

Unmasking Gender Inequities in Health: Research Findings & A Roadmap to Gender-Equitable UHC

 

Universal Health Coverage (UHC), a global health goal introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO), aims to ensure equitable access to essential health services without financial barriers. Its significance lies in its potential to enhance health outcomes, reduce inequalities, and foster economic development. UHC offers several benefits, including access to essential medical services, improved health outcomes, mitigation of health disparities, and promotion of economic growth.

Achieving UHC presents challenges across all economies, particularly in low-income countries. Structural barriers such as high healthcare costs, disparities in insurance coverage, and limited healthcare availability hinder access to care. However, recent research[1] published in The Lancet, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlights the importance of considering sex and gender differences in health outcomes, adding further complexity to the planning and delivery of UHC.

Key Insights from Research

The research article provides several key insights regarding health differences between females and males across different age groups and geographies. Key insights and conclusions from the research include:

Global Health Disparities: The study reveals substantial global health differences between females and males, with little progress in bridging these disparities from 1990 to 2021. Conditions such as depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and road injuries disproportionately affect females or males, with disparities emerging as early as adolescence and continuing to grow over the life course.

Regional Patterns: The research highlights various regional patterns in the distribution of disease burden across age groups for females and males. Variations in the prevalence of different health conditions across regions underscore the complex and context-specific relationships between health and gender norms, economic conditions, and social practices.

Importance of Gender-Sensitive Interventions: The findings underscore the importance of developing gender-sensitive interventions and preventive measures from a young age to address growing health differences between females and males across life stages. Gender norms and attitudes intensify during adolescence, emphasizing the need for early interventions that consider social determinants of health.

In addition to gender, it is crucial to recognize the intersecting influences of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographical location on health outcomes. Intersectionality underscores the complex interplay between various social determinants of health, magnifying disparities experienced by marginalized communities. For instance, women of colour may face compounded barriers to accessing healthcare due to systemic racism and economic inequality. Similarly, rural communities may encounter distinct health challenges stemming from limited healthcare infrastructure and resources. By adopting an intersectional lens, policymakers and healthcare providers can develop more targeted interventions that address the unique needs of diverse populations, thereby advancing health equity.

Need for Inclusive Health Data: The study highlights the need for inclusive health data that span the gender spectrum to support more comprehensive and equitable health research. Current data limitations, including the binary framework of female or male in data disaggregation, hinder the analysis of health differences for gender-diverse individuals.

Persistent Health Differences: Despite advancements in understanding sex and gender disparities in health, the research underscores the persistent nature of health differences between females and males. The study calls for continued innovation in analysing health data from a gender perspective to address the roots of health disparities and promote health equity.

Life Course Approach: The research emphasizes the importance of adopting a life course approach in strategic planning for health systems to address the diverse and evolving health needs of females and males across different life stages. Effective health system strategies should consider the interplay between sex, gender, and other social determinants of health.

[Figure 1 – Global rankings of the top 20 causes of DALYs globally for females and males, age-standardised (10 years and older), 2021]

The list of causes of disease burden represents the top 20 causes of age-standardised DALYs observed across females and males for the age group of 10 years and older globally in 2021. This same list of health conditions was ranked according to the DALY rates (per 100 000 population) for both females and males globally in 2021 for the same age group. The colours of the bars and lines denote whether DALY rates are higher for females (red) or males (blue) as established by whether the 95% uncertainty interval of the absolute difference in DALY rates includes zero. The degree of transparency reflects the composition of DALYs for each cause, split between mortality (YLL) and morbidity (YLD). DALY=disability-adjusted life-year. YLL=years of life lost. YLD=years lived with disability.

In conclusion, the research article highlights the ongoing health disparities between females and males globally, the regional variations in disease burden, the importance of gender-sensitive interventions, the need for inclusive health data, and the significance of adopting a life course approach in healthcare planning to promote health equity and address health differences across diverse populations.

Limitations and Considerations

Acknowledging several limitations, including the inability to fully disentangle the influences of sex and gender on health outcomes, the study calls for more inclusive health research that considers intersectionality with other determinants of health.

The research emphasizes the necessity of adopting sex-informed and gender-informed strategies to address the distinct health challenges faced by men and women at different stages of life. This approach is crucial for achieving an equitable and healthy future for all individuals. Additionally, incorporating a sub-national perspective into these strategies can ensure that interventions are tailored to the specific needs of different regions and populations.

The research also hints at the need for sub-national analysis to understand how these disparities manifest at a local level.  By examining data at a sub-national level, researchers can identify localized health challenges, tailor interventions to specific regions, and allocate resources effectively to address disparities within different communities.

While national-level data provides a crucial overview of gender disparities in health, sub-national analysis offers a more granular understanding of these inequities. By examining health outcomes at the district or community level, policymakers and healthcare providers can identify localized challenges and tailor interventions to specific populations. This approach has proven successful in addressing other health disparities, such as maternal mortality and infectious disease outbreaks. For example, in India, sub-national analysis revealed significant variations in maternal mortality rates across states, prompting targeted interventions that led to a substantial decline in overall maternal deaths. Similarly, in Cambodia, sub-national data has been used to identify high-risk areas for malaria transmission, allowing for targeted distribution of bed nets and antimalarial medications. These examples demonstrate the potential of sub-national analysis to inform effective and equitable healthcare strategies, particularly in addressing the complex issue of gender disparities in health.

The Cambodian Context

In Cambodia, the unique burden of disease, that represents its top 20 causes of age-standardised DALYs will be slightly different from that of the global collection.  However, the underlying research illustrates that without assessment, gender-based access can be inhibited.  This is important for economies like Cambodia, as addressing its health inequities requires a nuanced understanding of various demographic factors and gender dynamics that play a crucial and influential role in the provision of healthcare.

The female population outnumbers males by 2-4%.  This demographic skew is further compounded by a pattern of rural to urban migration, whereby men predominantly leave provincial districts for city-based employment opportunities, leaving behind a disproportionately female rural population.  Beyond this, it is asserted that there are still a significant number of rural communities, within localities, still unmapped.[2]

[Figure 2 – Unmapped Villages and Towns in Cambodia, 2019]

Women, in general, also tend to outlive men both locally and globally, resulting in an aging and rural population, predominantly comprised of older women.  Adding further complexity is the consideration associated with the healthcare needs of prisoners, especially those of older incarcerated men and women, living out their lives in settings, where healthcare standards inside the prison gate fall way short of the limited standards that already exist outside the gate.

Sub-National Analysis: A Critical Tool for Action

Policymakers are increasingly recognizing the value of sub-national and sub-regional analysis in healthcare. By collecting and analysing health data within districts or communities, typically organized into cohorts of around 100,000 individuals (100k Analysis), we can identify regional and often sub-regional disparities in health outcomes, healthcare access, and resource allocation. This approach enables policymakers and healthcare providers to gain insights into localized health needs, prioritize interventions, and allocate resources more effectively.

The 100k Analysis approach can help facilitate a focus that examines and unmasks the granular detail of health outcomes, disparities, and healthcare utilization patterns within specific geographic areas.

While sub-national analysis offers a promising avenue for addressing gender inequities in health, it is important to acknowledge the potential challenges and limitations of this approach. Data availability and quality can vary significantly across regions, particularly in resource-limited settings. Additionally, financial and human resource constraints may hinder the implementation of comprehensive sub-national analysis. Strong political will and coordination among various stakeholders are essential for success, but can be challenging to achieve. Furthermore, the complexity of health systems and the interplay of multiple factors beyond gender may not be fully captured by sub-national analysis alone. Finally, equity considerations must be prioritized to ensure that resources and interventions are distributed fairly across all populations.

While challenges exist in capturing the complex nature of health needs within a fixed population size, the benefits of this approach outweigh the drawbacks. By complementing population-based analyses with localized evaluations, we can develop targeted interventions that address the diverse and evolving health needs of rural and urban populations across different age groups.

A Roadmap to Gender-Equitable UHC

To dismantle the systemic barriers perpetuating gender inequities in health, we must adopt a multifaceted approach that includes sub-national analysis as a critical tool:

  1. Invest in Data: We need robust, sex-disaggregated data at both national and sub-national levels. This data must inform targeted interventions and policies addressing the specific health needs of different populations in different regions.
  2. Empower Communities: Engage with communities at all levels, especially marginalized groups, to raise awareness of gender disparities and empower them to advocate for their health rights.
  3. Build Capacity: Provide healthcare professionals with training and resources to deliver gender-sensitive care free from bias and discrimination, ensuring that this capacity is distributed equitably across regions.
  4. Reform Policies: Advocate for policies promoting gender equity in all aspects of health, from access to services to research funding, with consideration for regional variations in health needs.
  5. Challenge Norms: Confront harmful social norms and power dynamics that drive gender disparities in health, recognizing that these norms can vary across different communities and regions.

The time for action is now. By working together, we can create a world where all individuals, regardless of gender or geography, have the opportunity to live healthy, fulfilling lives. This is not just a matter of justice; it is an investment in the future of our societies. When we prioritize gender equity and sub-national analysis in health, we create a ripple effect of positive change that extends to all aspects of life.

Author profile

Philip J Gover BA MA MPH

Public Health Consultant based in Cambodia with Cooperation.Works Mobile and open to program and research management opportunities that address inequalities in Public Health, Social Justice and Sustainable Development. 

I solve complex development challenges, designing innovative programs and securing funding through strategic partnerships.  With a proven track record in Community Development, Public Health, and Business Enterprise, I like to drive projects from concept to implementation. Passionate about the UN SDGs, I aim to support and empower communities to create sustainable solutions. I enjoy coaching teams and mentoring talent and I take calculated risks to achieve transformative change.

Let's connect if you seek a change-maker with vision and execution. 

philip.gover@cooperation.works

https://www.linkedin.com/in/pjgover

 

References

[1]     Patwardhan, V., Gil, G. F., Arrieta, A., Cagney, J., DeGraw, E., Herbert, M. E., … & Flor, L. S. (2024). Differences across the lifespan between females and males in the top 20 causes of disease burden globally: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021. The Lancet Public Health9(5), e282-e294.  Available here

[2]     See here

 

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Stroke Awareness and Africa

IN A NUTSHELL
Editor's note Stroke risk awareness should increase in Africa where this disease is the third leading cause of death, accounting for about 9% of all deaths on the continent, due to factors including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and lack of access to healthcare services

By Kirubel Workiye Gebretsadik

Medical Doctor, Ras Desta Damtew Memorial Hospital

                                     Addis Ababa, Ethiopia                                       

Stroke Awareness and Africa

 

Stroke is a medical condition that affects millions of people around the world, including the African population. It is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted(1).

May is Stroke Awareness Month, a time dedicated to increasing awareness about stroke, its causes, and its impact on individuals and families(2).

African countries are facing a growing burden of stroke cases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stroke is the third leading cause of death in Africa, accounting for about 9% of all deaths on the continent. The prevalence of stroke in Africa is higher compared to other regions, and it affects individuals at a younger age. This can be attributed to various factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and lack of access to healthcare services(3).

One of the major challenges in addressing stroke in Africa is the lack of awareness and knowledge about the condition. Many people are unaware of the risk factors and warning signs of stroke, which delays the timely recognition and treatment of the condition. It is crucial to educate the population about stroke, its symptoms, and the importance of seeking immediate medical attention.

Many individuals may not recognize the symptoms of a stroke or may delay seeking medical help, resulting in delayed treatment and poorer outcomes. Therefore, it is crucial to educate the public about the signs and symptoms of a stroke and emphasize the importance of seeking immediate medical attention.

Recognizing the warning signs of stroke is crucial for getting prompt medical attention and preventing long-term damage.

The acronym “BE FAST” is an easy way to remember the signs of stroke:

  • Balance: sudden loss of balance or headache
  • Eyes: Is vision blurry
  • Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or feel numb?
  • Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”
  • Time to call: If someone shows any of these symptoms, call to hospital immediately.

Prevention plays a vital role in reducing the burden of stroke in the population. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly lower the risk of stroke. This includes maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, and managing underlying conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes(4). Access to quality healthcare services and medications for risk factor control is also crucial in preventing strokes. In conclusion, stroke has a significant impact on the African population, with higher prevalence and younger age of onset compared to other regions. Raising awareness about stroke, recognizing its symptoms, and promoting preventive measures are essential to reduce the burden of stroke in Africa. By working together to educate communities and improve access to healthcare services, we can make a difference in the lives of millions affected by stroke in Africa. Remember, timely action can save lives. Stay informed, stay healthy(5).

Stroke Awareness Month is an opportunity to spread the word about stroke prevention, recognition, and treatment. By raising awareness, we can help more people understand the risk factors, warning signs, and actions to take in the event of a stroke(6).

 

References

  1. World Stroke Day | American Stroke Association [Internet]. [cited 2024 May 11]. Available from: https://www.stroke.org/en/about-the-american-stroke-association/world-stroke-day
  2. Stroke – Society for Public Health Education – SOPHE [Internet]. [cited 2024 May 11]. Available from: https://www.sophe.org/focus-areas/chronic-conditions/may-national-stroke-awareness-month/
  3. World Stroke Day 2022 [Internet]. [cited 2024 May 11]. Available from: https://www.who.int/srilanka/news/detail/29-10-2022-world-stroke-day-2022
  4. strokeawareness [Internet]. [cited 2024 May 11]. Help Spread Stroke Awareness | Stroke Awareness. Available from: https://www.strokeawareness.com/patient/spread-the-word.html
  5. Elshebiny A, Almuhanna M, AlRamadan M, Aldawood M, Aljomeah Z. Awareness of Stroke Risk Factors, Warning Signs, and Preventive Behaviour Among Diabetic Patients in Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia. Cureus. 15(2):e35337.
  6. Stroke Awareness Foundation: Improving Stroke Outcomes [Internet]. [cited 2024 May 11]. Available from: https://www.strokeinfo.org/

 

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