Professor Valery Feigin, an internationally renowned neurologist at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), is the recipient of this year’s Excellence in Stroke Award in recognition of his ground-breaking contribution to stroke prevention.
The award was presented by the Stroke Society of Australasia at an international conference held in Sydney last month.
Professor Feigin is the director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at AUT, which conducts epidemiological studies and clinical trials to improve the health of people with neurological disorders.
“I was extremely pleased and honoured to receive this prestigious award. I take it as recognition of the work that my team and I have undertaken in the primary prevention of stroke,” he says.
In 2014, they launched the Stroke Riskometer™ – a free mobile app that assesses your individual risk of stroke within the next five to 10 years. The app aims to educate people about the warning signs and risk factors of stroke and motivate them to change their behaviour.
Users are guided through a simple interactive quiz that evaluates age, gender, ethnicity, diet, lifestyle, stress and other health factors. Purchasing the pro version unlocks the ability to save and track results and access expert advice on how to reduce and manage the risk of stroke.
The Stroke Riskometer™ has been translated into 14 languages and downloaded more than 150,000 times in 78 countries. Czech and Bulgarian language versions will be available soon.
Users can also opt to participate in the world’s largest collaborative mobile health project by anonymously submitting their results through the app. The RIBURST study – Reducing the International Burden of Stroke Using Mobile Technology – involves 300 stroke researchers in 102 countries and now has more than 12,000 participants.
The global burden of stroke is high and increasing further. Unless immediate action is taken, it will become an even more serious and unmanageable threat to public health.
In New Zealand, the direct cost of stroke is estimated at NZ$700 million annually. This does not include indirect costs of the disease, such as loss of productivity and out-of-pocket expenses.
“Death and disability from stroke and the number of people requiring rehabilitation is ever-increasing. The demand for already overstretched health resources is growing fast and may even threaten the sustainability of the entire health system,” says Professor Feigin.
“Even if we increase the number of hospital beds and health professionals we won’t solve the problem, because the number of people who require help is growing much faster than the funding available.”
One in six people will experience a stroke. It is now the second leading cause of death and disability worldwide – yet more than 80 percent of strokes could be prevented.
In New Zealand, the results of a recent randomised control trial suggest that widespread use of the Stroke Riskometer™ could prevent about 300 strokes and save NZ$25 million annually.
Studies show that even people who have suffered a stroke don’t know what the risk factors are.
Professor Feigin says there are major gaps in the current primary prevention strategies. He believes the emphasis needs to shift from high-risk prevention to population-wide prevention and mobile technologies offer promising new ways to bridge the divide.
“The only solution is effective primary prevention. And, I am so pleased to receive this award as recognition of our work to reduce the burden of stroke nationally and internationally.”
The free version of the Stroke Riskometer™ is endorsed by the World Stroke Organisation, World Federation of Neurology and World Heart Federation.