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The text first appeared on the World Stroke Organisation blog

The World Stroke Organization leadership team and stroke survivors drawn from our membership network are in Geneva this week. They are contributing to critical health policy discussions taking place in and around the 71st World Health Assembly. In a packed programme they will be participating in sessions; contributing to partnership side-events; meeting with WHO technical leads and collaborating with our advocacy colleagues in the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) arena to improve stroke prevention and equitable access to quality clinical care.

Photo by WSO; May 2018

As a key global meeting in the global health policy calendar, the World Health Assembly provides a crucial advocacy opportunity for WSO members and partners. Discussions and decisions made in Geneva this week are not only important in accelerating progress on NCDs but provide a key opportunity for WSO members to ramp up national advocacy initiatives, build dialogue with their Ministries of Health and make sure that stroke is on everyone’s agenda in advance of the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs, in New York on September 27th 2018.

The draft outcome document for the HLM will be drafted over the next few weeks, so the WHA is a key opportunity to advocate to governments the impact of stroke on individuals and on economic development. In this context, we will be highlighting the potential return on investment for governments and societies that could come from addressing critical gaps in prevention and treatment of stroke.

What are we asking WHO and Member States to do?

  1. As the single biggest cause of stroke, we are asking governments to develop health system capacity to tackle hypertension. Investments that address the root causes of hypertension, strengthen health systems and improve access to screening, management and treatment could substantially reduce the risk of stroke, dementia heart attacks, heart failure and kidney disease and contribute to the achievement of SDG3.
  2. Taxation of unhealthy commodities that contribute to stroke incidence such as tobacco, alcohol and sugar sweetened beverages not only has the potential to reduce potentially harmful levels of consumption, but can generate income that can invested in disease prevention and treatment. We are calling for governments to reinforce the implementation of the WHO best-buys.
  3. Stroke is responsible for 5,5 million deaths per year and accounted for 116 million disability-adjusted life-years in 2016. Investing in stroke has the potential to make a significant contribution to reduction in premature death, disability, health and social care costs globally. We ask that governments prioritise investment in stroke to increase access to essential stroke treatments.

What are we doing?

As members of the Leadership Group of the Global Coalition for Circulatory Health, WSO has contributed to the development and delivery of a WHA side event on 22nd May: At Positioning Circulatory Health in Universal Health Coverage: The Case for Hypertension participants will learn how universal health coverage can be made to work for circulatory health and for people living with hypertension. WSO Campaign and SSO Committee member Rita Melifonwu will unpack the reality of pursuing universal health coverage for hypertension in Sub-Saharan Africa. Swiss stroke survivor and hypertension patient, Nicolas Diserens will share his personal experiences of living with hypertension.

We are drafting a White Paper on Circulatory Diseases and Co-morbidities with our partners in the Global Coalition for Circulatory Health to inform the UN on NCDs
WSO leadership is meeting with WHO technical leads to discuss essential medicines and devices for stroke prevention and treatment.
WSO is working in partnership with WHO to gather data to inform a Lancet Commission on Stroke Services in Low and Middle Income Countries. The Lancet Commission is expected to be presented around the time of the UN HLM in New York.

Advocating for stroke as a highly visible part of the NCD Alliance #enoughNCDs campaign.

Please read next:  How much does a stroke cost? SAFE is initiating a research project in 33 European countries

What can you do?

As an individual or as a representative of your national/local stroke organization write to your Ministry of Health asking for your Head of State or Minister of Health to attend the UN High Level Meeting in September in New York.

Having high-level participation will increase ownership and commitment to the outcome document.
Write to your government or Ministry of Health to request a meeting to discuss national stroke priorities and put across your key messages.

Engage with local stroke organizations, civil society networks, professional networks and patient groups who share your commitment to NCD prevention and make sure that stroke asks feature in partnership advocacy messaging.
Use websites and social media to raise awareness of stroke issues in the context of NCDs. Follow the World Stroke Campaign on social media, join the conversation and share key messages to your online community. #enoughStroke #enoughNCDs

Keep us informed of your local advocacy plans and activities and of course any successes, so that we can share these in our communication with members and partners. E-mail updates to campaigns@world-stroke.org

Tools and resources to help

The World Stroke Organization’s Advocacy Toolkit provides a step by step guide to developing your key asks in relation to stroke and could be a useful tool to prepare for meetings with government representatives, public campaigns etc.

The NCD Alliance campaign website www.enoughNCDs.org provides some key messages and visual resources that can be used to support your communication on stroke issues. You can also add your voice to the Our Voices section to ensure that the experiences of stroke survivors and caregivers are visible within the campaign

The World Stroke Campaign website contains key messages, information resources and calls to action on stroke prevention and treatment. These can be adapted and used to support current campaigns.