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The aim of World Stroke Day (WSD), celebrated annually on October 29, is to encourage all of us to join the global fight against stroke. Every other second an adult or a child, a man or a woman, old or young, suffers a stroke. Furthermore, every sixth second someone dies because of stroke. If a stroke victim survives, they are often severely disabled for the rest of their life. Stroke causes a major loss of quality in life and has a severe impact on developing countries. Furthermore, 85% of strokes occur in people with low or moderate risk factors – it could be you or me. What can we do to prevent it? According to the WHO MONICA project, back in the early 1970s Finland held the unquestionable world record of having the highest incidence of stroke in men and the second highest in women. Then the North-Karelia project was launched and in the 1980s the incidence and mortality rate started to decline in Finland – and the decline continues.

Most strokes occur in developing countries with limited financial resources. How can they afford to fight against stroke? The annual WSD competition has revealed that it is possible to fight stroke cost-effectively. From the outcomes of the competition we have noticed that fighting stroke can be done better in the developing countries than in many wealthy countries. Over 60 countries and regions took part in the WSD competition of 2009. The winners were selected based on innovation, message and reach of the activities executed. The same criteria were used when ranking the 2010 WSD competition, in which about the same amount of countries and regions took part. The winners of WSD 2010 are Guntur, India; Hungary and Nigeria and the three honourable mentions go to Bengal, India; Russia and Kerala, India.

In both competitions the campaigners worked hard at a grass-roots level. They organized information campaigns for newspaper, radio and TV. They also delivered lectures for professionals and lay people about preventing and treating stroke. They successfully invited ministers to join their activities and founded stroke societies and stroke support organizations. It is amazing how innovative, energetic and active these foot soldiers have been in the war against stroke. We know for a fact that such activities were also executed in many other regions. For these regions, what matters the most is the grass-roots work regardless of the global attention. The best thing about the past two WSD competitions was that most of the winners were from developing countries. Their activities verify that the hard work needed to reduce the burden of stroke can be done anywhere in the world.

The WSD competition success and interest has shown that it is possible to fight against stroke worldwide. This should encourage us all to follow the examples of the winners of the WSD competitions. Now is the time to join forces in the fight against stroke.

Just look in the mirror and you'll see most important person in the fight against stroke.