An unwholesome diet that included the consumption of junk food was one of the risk factors that make Sri Lankans vulnerable to strokes, a deadly disease that accounts for the second highest hospital deaths here, said Dr. Palitha Maheepala, Additional Secretary of the Health Ministry.
Dr. Maheepala was delivering the guest speech at the AGM of the National Stroke Association of Sri Lanka (NSASL) held at the HNB Tower auditorium where Dr. Padma Guneratne, Consultant Neurologist was re-elected as NSASL president for a second term.
Dr. Maheepala said that a study done on the ‘Prevalence of non-communicable disease risk factors’ among Sri Lankans between the ages of 18 and 65 revealed that 25% smoke, 26% use alcohol, 18% are physically inactive and 20%are overweight or obese.
He said that in Sri Lanka stroke accounts for 11% of all deaths adding that it is a huge economic burden, especially when people die prematurely.
He said the way forward in stroke prevention and management was to continue primary prevention activities. More attention should be paid to prevent smoking and the consumption of alcohol and follow a salt reduction strategy, he said.
The most effective preventive method is to initiate screening for early detection of hypertension and diabetes.
Making the presidential address, after being elected for a second term, Dr. Guneratne said that over the decade of its existance the NSASL, has come a long way in establishing stroke services and since recently its services have been multiplied culminating in the association winning the first Gold Award.
The award was made consequent to a competition held among 56 organisations in 30 countries The award would be presented at the World Stroke Congress to be held in Seoul, Korea next month.
She said another ‘feather in the cap’ of the NSASL was the winning of the bid to host the most important stroke conference in this region, the Asia Pacific Stroke Conference, in 2011 in Colombo.
Dr. Guneratne said that some of the activities NSASL carried out include educating the public on stroke preventive measures, conducting nurses training and stroke care givers programmes, conducting screening clinics for the public and organising activities to mark National and World Stroke Days.
Stressing that the lack of wards in hospitals as one of the main constraints in treating stroke patients, she said that the Association has made representations to the Health Ministry and directors of hospitals to motivate them to establish more units or wards.
The word Agjatjaua which is the Sinhala word for stroke is still not a familiar word for a majority of the people and this had become an impediment in their activities. She said there was a scarcity of therapists for stroke rehabilitation and there were no social workers at many of the hospitals. She also said there was a big contrast in the experiences and attitude of health care givers in stroke rehabilitation here when compared to those in developed countries.
She said that the NSASL hopes to focus on minimising these deficiencies and it would lobby the Health Ministry to establish a steering committee to coordinate activities related to the disease.