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Stroke Smart Magazine

September/October 2007

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Kids Making a Difference

By Jonathan Bitz

When people think about educating the community about stroke, they think of senior centers and health fairs. But kids are often the first ones to notice that something is wrong with grandpa or mommy or Uncle Joe. And kids are notorious for pestering adults about the bad habits they learned about in school. That's why in the past five years National Stroke Association has introduced two stroke education programs aimed at children. And now, Hip Hop Stroke and Brainiac Kids are making great strides in helping kids make a difference and save lives in their communities.

Hip Hop Stroke, National Stroke Association's school-based program, teaches students how to prevent a stroke and what it is when they see it. And according to Jeannie Price, the coordinator of the Hip Hop Stroke Program, there is at least anecdotal evidence that the students are using what they learn to make a difference in their communities.

“Someone from the State Department of New York called one day to tell me about two stroke patients who showed up at Harlem Hospital,” said Price. “The patients recognized the stroke symptoms because they learned them from their children after a Hip Hop Stroke presentation in their schools.”

Of course there is no way to know what might have happened had they not recognized stroke and acted quickly to treat it. “At National Stroke Association, we know that stroke is the number one cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States, so we celebrate each stroke survival story,” said Price.

And that's not the only success story that has come from the program. At a New York school, a teacher had stroke symptoms one day in the classroom. Luckily, some of the other teachers at the school recognized the symptoms because they had learned them in the Hip Hop program. As a result the teachers called 911 and got the stroke patient to the hospital quickly. Tests showed she had suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke. Generally, a TIA is a serious warning sign of an impending stroke.

At the beginning of the Hip Hop program students are asked if they know someone who has had a stroke. On average, 65 percent of the kids in the Harlem program, most of whom were African American, said they did. Usually it was a family member.

That's why it is so important that the students take home and share the information they learn in the classroom. Follow-up with the children has shown that the kids are doing just that. “We know this because the kids go home with a packet of information to give to their families, and when they send in a signed form indicating that the parents have received the information, they get prizes,” said Price. “About half of the 3,100 kids who've been through the program have sent in their forms.”

The teachers who see the program with their students also learn a few things. In Washington D.C., a teacher said that she learned about stroke prevention through the Hip Hop Stroke program. There was a history of stroke in the family, but before the presentation she had never heard that a majority of strokes could be prevented. Subsequently she shared prevention tips with her sister, who was at high-risk for stroke.

The kids are not only sharing the information right away, but also retaining it several months out. National Stroke Association conducts follow-up tests with each student. At three months, there is an 86% retention rate. And at six months, when another test is given, an 82% retention rate is achieved.

Now another National Stroke Association program, Brainiac Kids Community Education Program, is urging children to get involved and educate their classmates about stroke. With a variety of activities and games, Brainiac Kids is reinforcing the idea that many strokes are preventable.

By aiming at younger children in communities where the incidence of stroke is highest, programs such as Hip Hop and Brainiac Kids are turning students into teachers.

To learn more about Hip Hop Stroke and Brainiac Kids, go to Kids and Stroke, on National Stroke Association’s website.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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