National Stroke Week: Tamworth focus on Indigenous stroke risk

AWARENESS: Tamworth's Stroke Care coordinator Rachel Peake.  Photo: Peter Hardin
AWARENESS: Tamworth's Stroke Care coordinator Rachel Peake. Photo: Peter Hardin

ABORIGINAL people are more likely to die of stroke than non-Indigenous people, and this year they’re the focus of National Stroke Week in Tamworth.

Indigenous elders and the Stroke Foundation are joining forces to raise awareness about preventable strokes.

Tamworth’s Stroke Care coordinator Rachel Peake said in rural and remote areas of the north west access to care is more difficult, and Aboriginal people are already underrepresented.

“I don’t think they recognise the importance of signs and symptoms of stroke and getting to hospital quickly,” she said.

“It’s very difficult to know how many people have had a stroke and never come to hospital, once I start talking about stroke a lot of people put their hands up and still had signs and symptoms.

“Over the last five years Indigenous hospital attendance has doubled, not just because of resources but because healthcare professionals are trying very hard to make the hospital more culturally appropriate.”

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Aunty Pam Smith, a stroke survivor herself, will speak at the Tamworth event on Wednesday.

She hopes that by telling her story it will help others feel more comfortable seeking medical help, especially since a third of strokes are catastrophic.

“It’s the same as with cardiovascular risk, Aboriginal people are three times more likely to have heart or stroke incidents,” Ms Peake said.

“That’s because they’re predisposed to hypertension and diabetes.”

Ms Peake said up to 80 per cent of strokes are preventable.

The Tamworth Our Stroke Story event is on Wednesday September 5 at the Tamworth Community Centre from 1pm to 2:30pm.