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Georgetown, NIH to Improve D.C. Stroke Care

Stroke Care

Dr. Chelsea Kidwell, professor of neurology uses her research to teach D.C. residents the importance of taking action within the first moments of a stroke.

Chelsea Kidwell


November 4, 2010 – In underserved areas of Washington, D.C., even people familiar with stroke symptoms don’t call 911, according to research by Dr. Chelsea Kidwell, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC).

“Our data has shown that African Americans are less likely to receive emergency stroke treatment compared to the general population, and this may be due in part to hesitancy in calling 911,” says Kidwell, also director of the Georgetown University Stroke Center.

Treatment Available

Calling 911 and getting to the hospital immediately is critical. Use of a drug called tissue plasminogen activator dissolves blood clots responsible for 85 percent of strokes and restores brain function -- but only if given intravenously within a few hours of the attack.

Kidwell says fewer than 5 percent of stroke patients get the medication in time.

The ASPIRE Program

Using part of a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Kidwell researched and helped develop a community stroke education program called ASPIRE (Acute Stroke Program of Interventions Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities).

“Through our initial research we have identified barriers specific to this community that prevent patients from seeking early stroke care. Our educational campaign is designed to address these barriers,” says Kidwell, principal investigator of the grant.

The researchers have found that there is often a disconnect between knowledge and action. For example, people may not be aware that there is a treatment available for stroke, or they may be reluctant to call an ambulance due to cost or embarrassment.

The cooperative research grant also involves physicians and scientists from 20 other local institutions, including GUMC’s clinical partner, Georgetown University Hospital.

Stroke Education

On Sept. 1, the ASPIRE team launched a yearlong community education program to reach underserved black populations in the city -- about 150,000 people. At least 500 stroke educational sessions are planned along with media outreach, e-mails, Facebook postings, public service announcements and advertising on transit buses.

The education focuses on stroke preparedness: knowing the warning signs and calling 911 immediately to receive treatment that can prevent long-term disability.

Donna Johnson, a nurse who works with the health ministry at New Macedonia Church in Southeast Washington, D.C., says the stroke educational sessions were “well-received and very helpful.”

“Since our church is located in a ward with some of the highest health disparities in the city, the need for stroke prevention and early recognition is critical,” Johnson says.

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