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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3015


Mr COLEMAN (Banks) (11:21): I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this motion moved earlier today by the member for Chisholm in relation to stroke, one of the biggest health issues affecting the Australian community. Strokes are one of the leading causes of death and disability in our community, and, sadly, there would be very few of us who have not been touched by stroke in some way through relatives and friends. Addressing the causes of stroke and doing what we can to minimise the risk of stroke are incredibly important priorities.

Another thing that is very important is recognising the early signs of stroke, because often that identification of a potential stroke prior to its occurrence is literally the difference between life and death. It is critical as a community that we build understanding of how to identify those signs. That underlines the importance of National Stroke Week in getting the community to come together to acknowledge the significance of stroke in our community and to turn its mind to the risk factors relating to stroke. In 2015, there were some 50,000 strokes in Australia, which works out to about one every 10 minutes. This is a disease that will kill more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer. So it is extraordinarily widespread in our community.

In recent years, the FAST test has been developed to help enable loved ones to try to determine whether or not someone may be at risk of suffering a stroke. The FAST test has four key parts. First is face: check the person's face; has their mouth drooped? The second is arms: can they lift both arms? The third is speech: is their speech slurred? Do they understand you? The fourth is time. This is critical. If you see any of the above signs, call 000 straightaway, because the difference between literally a few minutes can be absolutely critical in these circumstances.

We need to continue to make a concerted effort to promote awareness of the prevention of stroke within the Australian community and to heed the National Stroke Foundation's call to live a healthy way to reduce the risk of stroke and to get regular health checks.

The four main risk factors in relation to stroke are: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity and an irregular heartbeat. They are the four main risk factors and a number of those are things that we, in our own lives, can do something about to minimise the risk of stroke.

It is good to see that, in my own electorate of Banks, the two main hospitals that service my region—St George Hospital and Bankstown hospital—both have specialist stroke units, and they have been put in place in recent years. In 2013, Bankstown hospital was accredited as a stroke unit and has a thrombolysis centre that allows patients to access drugs that are designed to declot the bloodstream. So, great work is being done both at St George and at Bankstown hospitals in this most important of areas.

About two per cent of all people at any given time have previously suffered a stroke. If you look at the National Stroke Foundation's statistics on this, it makes for quite sobering reading. Of the 437,000 stroke survivors in Australia in 2014, that represented close to 2,000 per 100,000 population—so, as I say, about two per cent—and, in New South Wales, 146,000 people are living with the consequences of having suffered a stroke. So, it is an extremely important issue. National Stroke Week is something that is very important in our community, and I commend the member for Chisholm for bringing attention to it.