On the morning of 9th September 2016, the President of SAFE, Jon Barrick made an appearance on Serbian national TV as the main guest of the Morning show. The topics discussed were all related to stroke, its prevention, treatment and rehabilitation across Europe, as well as the role of stroke support organisations in this matter.
You can watch the video clip here. Since it is in Serbian language, please read below the translated transcript of the conversation between Jon Barrick and the host of the Morning show.
Host: There are 25.000 strokes in one year in Serbia, this is one of the leading causes of death, not only in Serbia, but in Europe too. In Belgrade the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) are meeting where the main topic for discussion is how to improve the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation after a stroke. Also, how patient’ associations can help. Serbia has its representative in this organization, Stroke Association, and it is one of the reasons this meeting is being held in our country. The guest of our Morning show is John Barrick, the president of the SAFE. Good morning. Tell us more about the goals you have set for SAFE. How do you accomplish them?
Jon Barrick, the president of SAFE: The SAFE Board has come to Belgrade because we have a very important meeting about the prevention of stroke and its treatment. We deal with things concerning lifestyle, such as smoking or high blood pressure. And it is very important that people think about what can lead them to experience the second deadliest killer in the world.
Host: What is the situation in Great Britain, where you come from, when it comes to treating a stroke? In Serbia, 25.000 people a year are affected by stroke.
Jon Barrick, the president of SAFE: We have already developed an entire system for the treatment and prevention of stroke in Great Britain. There are special units which deal with stroke in all parts of the UK, which can help patients. There were no such units before. And now, in the last couple of years, we have also some new forms of treatment. As for the SAFE, there are some forms of treatment which are only accessible to the wealthier parts of Europe, and they should be accessible to everyone in Europe.
Host: And with that I come to my second question. Prevention and rehabilitation differ from country to country. What is SAFE doing to make both of these things standard and improved? So the system of treating a stroke would be more balanced?
Jon Barrick, the president of SAFE: There are different resources which need to be available to people who go through stroke. And one of the most important things is what needs to be done from the moment a stroke occurs to the time a patient gets to the hospital, gets treated and released from the hospital, as well the time after the patient returns home. All those steps are very expensive, but they need to be done. But when you sum everything up, society benefits more in the long run, because it means that later, after the patient has returned to their community, he or she will no longer have problems which can cause another stroke. If they have certain problems at home, they can lead to pressure on the family or at work. People who have experienced a stroke need to have support after they return home.
Host: What is SAFE and how long has it existed?
Jon Barrick, the president of SAFE: Our association was founded in 2007*, and when we started there were only 6 organizations from countries where there was already some form of support for the stroke survivors. Now we have 30 European states where there are organizations which deal with stroke and provide support to stroke survivors. These organizations also gather funds for research, for finding new forms of treatment, which helps because the incidence of stroke is rising in some countries, especially in Eastern Europe, where there are a lot of people who smoke and who have a lot of salt in their diets that is why they have a lot of strokes. And that is why we want all this energy and knowledge to be transferred to Eastern Europe in order to try and fight this terrible illness.
Host: How do you decide where the money goes and which country you are going to help? What are the parameters?
Jon Barrick, the president of SAFE: We have a group of people from different countries and together we try to reach the best solution in finding a way to help different places so those organizations, which are in different countries. But you need also the cooperation of the government and the healthcare system. It is very important that there is an organized government in the countries we come to, which are ready to work with us so we would be usefully.
Host: How is the Serbian government involved in your work? Or how much help are you getting from our ministry of health?
Jon Barrick, the president of SAFE: We have just started our work in Serbia. But besides the support of the government we expect the citizens to organize themselves and help our organization in Serbia. So we need volunteers, doctors which need to help us develop these groups, as well as members of families of stroke survivors, who should talk about their experience, and share it with others. Because it can help improve the system, as well as the people who had similar experiences.
Host: In which research are you involved and why are they important?
Jon Barrick, the president of SAFE: At this moment, in Serbia, we are working on setting up the basics. But at this meeting we can start to improve what is currently being done in Serbia. Our plans in the next 6 months is to start a report in the European Parliament where we can talk about the problem of stroke in the whole of Europe and about why the European Commission should be interested in helping everyone in Europe fight stroke.
Host: What are the biggest weaknesses Serbia has when it comes to treating stroke and its prevention?
Jon Barrick, the president of SAFE: One of the most important things that can be done in Serbia is raising public awareness about what stroke is, because a lot of people cannot recognize the symptoms when someone close to them is hit by stroke. We are talking about tests for the face and hands, whether the face of the person is drooping. They can try to smile. Whether they are having difficulties repeating words, or can raise their hands and keep them in that position. If anybody has these problems, than it is very likely that they are having a stroke and they need immediate help. So the Serbian public needs to be informed about that. Because if the treatment isn’t administered quickly after stroke occurs, the brain can be left with serious damages. That is why the most important thing is to recognize the symptoms of stroke and quickly take the person having the stroke to the hospital.
Host: We wish you luck in your further work and thank you for being our guest this morning.
*a slip of the tongue, SAFE exists since 2004