Improving Stroke Services
According to the World Stroke Organisation, one in six people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. In Nigeria, stroke is now affecting more adults in their economically active lifespan, causing unemployment and poverty among stroke survivors. Stroke has reached epidemic proportions, affecting over 200,000 people a year, 46% of stroke survivors dying within three months and an additional 30% dying within 12 months. Through a community-based service model, Stroke Action – a not-for-profit organisation working with stroke survivors, their carers, individuals and partner agencies to promote meaningful evidence-based and quality life after a stroke – provides a range of affordable and multidisciplinary stroke services to bridge the gap in stroke care and make basic stroke services available to the communities they care for.
Stroke Action is a nurse-led health care service and the only community-centred base rehabilitation in Nigeria, providing services to reduce the incidence, complications and the burden of strokes and to ensure stroke survivors and those at risk to get the help they need to be healthy and well.
As a nurse and patient advocate, Rita Melifonwu lobbied the Federal Ministry of Health to sign an MOU with Stroke Action Nigeria to implement a national Stop Strokes campaign incorporating a stroke assembly conference, stroke services development, a national stroke registry and a stroke strategy. Rita coached two stroke survivors of working age to become Stroke Ambassadors, who have overcome social stigma and cultural barriers to engage in stroke advocacy and stroke policy decision making.
Onyinye, a 33-year-old graduate and former company manager, had a stroke and was dismissed from her employment due to her disability. Unemployed, she was unable to support herself, her widowed mother and younger siblings. She had limited mobility, was aphasic, had post stroke depression, and was socially isolated and marginalised. As a result of the support she received from Stroke Action, Onyinye successfully embraced her stroke recovery journey. She is now mobile, no longer depressed, a public stroke advocate, and is re-integrated back into her community. Onyinye is now a Stroke Ambassador Administrative Officer receiving above minimum wage income to improve her livelihood.