Rap music gets kids to spot stroke and call 911

NEW YORK Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:02am IST

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A novel stroke education program that uses hip-hop music to teach 9- to 11-year-olds living in a high-risk community to recognize when a person is having a stroke and summon help quickly can work, researchers have found.

"Hip-Hop Stroke" incorporates into rap lyrics the "FAST" mnemonic - that is, that changes in the Face (droopiness), Arm (weakness), and Speech (slurring of words) often occur during a stroke and that as soon as these symptoms are seen, it is Time to call 911.

Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death. Typically, only 3 percent of U.S. stroke patients are treated with emergency clot-busting therapy, which has been shown to significantly reduce disability.

Dr. Olajide Williams told Reuters Health: "The major reasons for the appalling statistics regarding emergency stroke treatment are related to the strict 3-hour time window within which treatment must be given and the failure of patients to get to the hospital within this strict treatment time window, which is directly linked to poor public recognition of cardinal stroke symptoms and the urgency of calling 911."

Williams and colleagues tested Hip-Hop Stroke in 582 students from two central Harlem, New York City elementary schools. They measured the students' stroke knowledge before and after they participated in 1-hour sessions over 3 consecutive days.

Overall, Williams told Reuters Health, the results showed that elementary school children in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades are "highly educable" about the warning symptoms and signs of stroke.

Moreover, they retain their newly acquired stroke knowledge for at least 3 months "and are capable of acting as first responders."

In the medical journal Stroke, the researchers report that, after finishing the Hip-Hop Stroke program, two children reported witnessing the sudden onset of stroke symptoms and appropriately got help. One sixth grader called 911 when a grandparent experienced stroke symptoms and one fourth grader was present when an older woman at a subway station suddenly dropped her groceries and slurred her words. "On his own, he called 911 from a pay phone on the subway platform."

SOURCE: Stroke, September 2008.

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