TV viewers in the UK will likely have noted that the Public Health England “Act F.A.S.T.” adverts promoting stroke awareness are back on our screens. The campaign has run periodically since 2009* and emphasises the importance of knowing the signs that someone is having a stroke – Face (has their face fallen on one side?), Arms (can they raise both arms and keep them there?), Speech (is their speech slurred?), Time to call 999.
The campaign has evolved over the years. For example, a broader ethnic range of characters experiencing stroke was introduced in 2014.
This year there has been a highly significant additional change. Did you spot it? The final tag line for the advert has been altered from “The faster you act, the more of the person you save” to “The faster you act, the better their chances“.
The change is subtle, but hugely important. The previous version reinforces a perception that someone who has suffered a stroke is somehow less human they were before. This is ableist and reflect a view of personhood that considers, albeit unintentionally, someone with a disability as less of a person than those who are able-bodied. I welcome this change and congratulate Public Health England for correcting this error.
*Official analysis of the impact of the Act F.A.S.T. campaign has been mixed. In 2012 the government reported an increase in stroke-related calls to the 999 emergency number, however a qualitative study published the following year was more sceptical (see Dombrowski et al (2013) BMC Public Health 13:915).