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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9544

Ms REA (7:16 PM) —In rising to support this motion, I too wish to congratulate the member for Shortland for bringing this motion before the House today and for giving me the opportunity to speak on this very serious and very important issue. If there is one thing I have learnt in the 18 months I have been in this House it is that there are many very important and very serious issues that we feel passionate about. We in this House have the opportunity to raise many of those issues on behalf of our electorates and on behalf of groups that we may be involved in or work with. National Stroke Week is a great opportunity to speak on this issue because, by raising awareness of the issues of stroke, the causes of stroke and the very important medical research and medical support that goes into dealing with the results of stroke, we can perhaps make a difference.

There are many causes that we as individuals and members of parliament passionately believe in but, unfortunately, we cannot make a difference in all of them. But through public debate and awareness-raising we can contribute to the prevention of stroke and perhaps raise the number of medical opportunities available to deal with the symptoms of stroke. As I and speakers before me have said, stroke is preventable. It is an issue that fits, I think, quite closely with the government’s agenda when it comes to health reform and health policy around increasing our support for preventive health and primary care. It is at those two levels that we can make a real difference for stroke victims and, as importantly, potential stroke victims in this country.

There are three key ways in which we can prevent stroke from happening. One of them is through clinical ways in terms of medication and, where appropriate, surgery. With the wonders of modern medicine in this country, we can deal with some of the causes of stroke through medical technology and medical expertise and so prevent strokes from occurring. But, as other speakers have said, the critical way of preventing stroke in our community is through changes in lifestyle. We all know that improving our diets, exercising more and cutting down on the bad habits of smoking and excessive intake of alcohol can improve our health in so many ways. Indeed, it is very clear that there are direct correlations between preventing strokes and addressing those lifestyle issues. So if just a few people are paying attention during the short time that we have available for this debate this evening and get the message and start to improve their lifestyle and physical health, it will be a great improvement for our community.

Whilst we all know the major focus is on the benefits to individuals we must also acknowledge that stroke costs the taxpayer around $2.14 billion each year, so there is clearly an incentive from a financial perspective for us to encourage people to take up lifestyle changes that will help prevent them from becoming victims of stroke. As I said, this is important not just from the financial perspective, but also due to the fact that stroke is the second biggest killer in this country after coronary heart disease. As has been mentioned before, a statistic I was not aware of until I started to research this topic, is that stroke kills more women than breast cancer. We all know how effective the breast cancer campaign has been right across this country in many different aspects. This campaign has raised awareness and I believe it has meant that a lot more young women have taken the time to ensure that they put together a range of checks, balances and lifestyle changes to prevent them from becoming victims of that disease. In the time remaining can I echo the previous speaker’s comments about carers and volunteers in this area. (Time expired)