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Post 1A ground-breaking health educational campaign aimed at raising awareness of stroke symptoms is being rolled out globally – with a Grand Mission to recruit one million children from across the world to help save their Grandparents. The award-winning FAST Heroes campaign seeks to use children between the ages of 5 and 9 years of age as the catalyst to help improve recognition of the signs of stroke, as well as increasing understanding about the need for speedy action when stroke strikes.

The campaign will leverage children’s amazing enthusiasm for learning and sharing, encouraging the spread of knowledge to the rest of their family, particularly to their grandparents. The educational resources are fun, engaging and interactive, teaching youngsters about empathy and love, as well as providing practical life-saving skills. Children are empowered with tools with which they can fulfil their mission of educating their grandparents.

Sheila Martins, Neurology Professor and President elect of the World Stroke Organization, who endorse the FAST Heroes campaign, said: “One in four of us will have a stroke in our lifetime, so it is a prominent issue that touches all of us. Worldwide, stroke is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability. However, stroke is treatable. People who have a stroke need access to high quality acute care as quickly as possible, so increasing awareness of the key symptoms is vital. Children can help make a real difference by sparking interest amongst their wider family. The overarching aim is to help ensure that when stroke strikes, our parents and grandparents can survive with their lives intact thanks to effective and fast treatment.”

To help kick-start this inspirational campaign and encourage international participation, children and their families are being invited to upload photos of themselves wearing a superhero mask, with a view to creating a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the largest online album of its kind.

The FAST Heroes programme, which can be delivered in schools or accessed online via a series of e-books, centres around animated characters – a group of retired superhero grandparents referred to as the FAST Heroes. They teach children about the three key signs of stroke – a face that suddenly droops to one side, one arm that suddenly goes weak, or two lips that suddenly cannot form speech – as well as the importance of calling an ambulance on 112 immediately.  To help role model the desired behaviour, an animated film shows a young boy called Timmy becoming a FAST Hero by calling 112 when his grandpa has a stroke.

Research has shown that people often do not recognise the key signs of a stroke and do not seek emergency medical care straight away.  A recent study, published in the BMC Emergency Medicine journal, showed that only 23% of stroke patients correctly realised they were having a stroke, and just 11% called for an ambulance.  Interestingly, six in ten (63%) called a relative or friend to ask for advice instead, with only a third (32%) receiving the correct advice to call an ambulance straight away.

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Ethienne Reynecke, a professional rugby player in South Africa and a stroke survivor, said: “The biggest mistake I made was to go and lie down when my symptoms started.  When I woke up, my daughter Layla realised something must be wrong. My speech was affected because of the stroke, which meant she could not understand me.  She immediately told her mum that she thought I needed to go to hospital.  My daughter probably saved my life that day.”

Professor Hariklia Proios, from the Department of Education and Social Policy at the University of Macedonia where the campaign was developed, said: “Educating children is proven to be a viable way to enhance their community’s stroke preparedness2.  By implementing the FAST Heroes campaign in schools in Greece, we were able to improve the knowledge of three stroke symptoms from 38% to 85%. Importantly, every single family knew the 112 emergency number after our intervention, an improvement of 60%3. Schools will be crucial in helping roll out the programme across the globe, we are encouraging them to help save the grandparents in their community.  We offer all the resources they need to implement the campaign for free, as well as providing the opportunity to compete against neighbouring schools to win great prizes.  What’s better than some friendly competition for a great cause?”

Jan Van Der Merwe from the Angels Initiative, a healthcare improvement project aimed at improving stroke care across the world, said: “Sadly stroke steals lives.  By educating parents and grandparents through their children, we can do something to make sure that when stroke strikes, we are as prepared as we can be.  This could be the difference not only between life and death, but also between “life as we know it” and a life lived with permanent disability. It is our hope that because the lifesaving teachings are passed on by children, with love, that their important message will stick. Together we can save the world – one grandparent at a time.”

In South Africa, the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa and medical device company Medtronic Southern Africa are proud partners to the FAST Heroes campaign. Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa states that knowledge and awareness does not alone drive behaviour change. “The FAST Heroes campaign is great in that young children are not only learning about stroke but are being skilled in exactly what they can do and how their protective behaviour can save the life of their grandparents,” she says.

Medtronic Southern Africa CEO Peter Mehlape concurs: “We’re getting behind FAST Heroes because saving lives is paramount! We’d like to encourage all South Africans – from children to parents to grandparents – to become global citizens and participate in this life-giving campaign.”

To find out more about the world record attempt, please see here:

To find out more about the campaign and to sign up to get involved, visit

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