Professor Valery Feigin has co-authored the World Stroke Organisation (WSO) Declaration on Global Prevention of Stroke and Dementia.
Prevention and control of stroke, dementia and other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are crucial in the response to COVID-19 and preparedness for future public health threats.
“COVID-19 has spurred government interventions and individual behaviour change on a global scale that was previously inconceivable, yet we have effectively been living with a stroke pandemic for years,” says Professor Valery Feigin, Director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at AUT
The Declaration calls for urgent action from governments to address failing public health prevention efforts.
Without new evidence-based interventions, the WSO projects that annual deaths from stroke and dementia will reach 12 million and five million respectively, by 2050.
Professor Feigin says, the need for radical action is clear.
“If implemented globally, the interventions we are proposing would not only save millions of lives, but hundreds of billions of dollars annually. This money is desperately needed to strengthen global health systems and fuel economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19,” he says.
An important way to control stroke and dementia is to focus on reducing the risk factors associated with these diseases.
Low-cost solutions exist for governments and other stakeholders to reduce the common modifiable risk factors, avoiding the need for more expensive treatment, says Professor Feigin.
The Declaration outlines four interdependent interventions:
The WSO estimates that this recommended population-wide approach would reduce the incidence of stroke by 50 percent, while also addressing numerous other NCDs that share common risk factors.
NCDs are a major risk for patients with COVID-19. The pandemic has revealed the particular vulnerability of those with underlying conditions.
Professor Feigin is considered one of the world’s most influential scientific minds. He ranks among the top one percent of scientists by citations for global research on the epidemiology, management, and prevention of stroke and traumatic brain injury.
“If the COVID-19 response is not adapted to encompass prevention and management of common stroke and NCD risk factors, we may fail many people at a time when their vulnerability is heightened,” he says.
Evidence from this and previous pandemics suggests that without proper management, chronic conditions can worsen due to stressful situations, as a result of restrictions, insecure economic situations, and changes in health behaviours.
Modifiable behavioural risk factors (smoking, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol) and metabolic risk factors (hypertension or high blood pressure, and obesity) increase the risk of stroke, dementia, and NCDs.
New Zealand has the second highest lifetime risk of stroke (26 percent) among developed countries, ahead of Canada (24 percent), the United States (23 percent), United Kingdom (21 percent), and Australia (21 percent). The highest is Finland (29 percent).