The poll of more than 1000 people, commissioned by the National Stroke Foundation, showed that only six percent of respondents named stroke as a health concern and less than one percent mentioned stroke as their biggest concern.
Stroke Foundation chief executive Dr Erin Lalor said the poll highlighted a persistent, dangerous level of ignorance about the realities and prevalence of stroke, even though a stroke happens to someone every 10 minutes in Australia.
“One in six people have a stroke in their lifetime and yet we are still struggling to get the message out that stroke matters,” Dr Lalor said.
“This is an absolute disgrace. People will continue to die needlessly – or survive while coping with devastating disability – until we can make every Australian understand that we have a major health crisis on our hands.”
Dr Lalor said the survey was confirmation that in the eyes of the public at least, stroke was considered a “poor second cousin” to other diseases – despite the fact that stroke was likely to affect every Australian in some way.
“These results represent yet another example of the low priority given to stroke – despite its huge prevalence and despite the enormous personal, social and economic burden stroke represents.
“This level of ignorance and apathy about stroke is unacceptable.”
More people die from stroke than die each from breast cancer, prostate cancer, mental health and diabetes, but Dr Lalor said a breakdown of annual health program funding, from 2010 Senate Estimates answers, showed that between 2010/11 and 2013/14 cancer will receive $2.5 billion; diabetes $1.6 billion; mental health $1.4 billion and cardiovascular disease (which includes not only stroke but also heart disease) just $0.0086 billion.
“This latest poll of public opinion on stroke reinforces the fact that stroke is not adequately understood or given appropriate attention,” she said.
“It is ignorance about what a stroke is and what it does to individuals, families and the whole community that is feeding this apathy, which is reflected in health budget spending priorities.”
“Stroke will continue to hold this impoverished position until more people understand stroke and appreciate its impact. Until more people recognise actions that will beat stroke we will continue to see avoidable deaths and disability.”
The survey was conducted by Colmar Brunton during the last week of April 2012 and polled more than 1000 people from every state and territory in Australia.
Participants were asked what they believed were the five major health issues in Australia today and why they believed their first response was a major health issue.
Stroke is Australia’s second biggest killer
Stroke kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer
About 20 per cent of strokes happen to people under the age of 55
Most of those people will require hospital care and more than one-third of those admitted to hospital will move to rehabilitation services after acute care
Because the brain controls everything we do – the way we think, move, speak, eat – stroke can leave people with a wide range of physical and cognitive changes and disabilities.
Some of the effects can include paralysis, speech and swallowing difficulties, problems with memory, hearing and eyesight – it all depends on where in the brain the stroke occurs and how severe it is.
The National Stroke Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that works with the public, government, health professionals, stroke survivors and carers to reduce the impact of stroke on the Australian community.