March 1st , 2024


Stanley Hammond

5 months ago


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5 months ago

The initiative aims to educate pupils aged five to nine to recognise the symptoms of a stroke and to understand the importance of immediate action such as calling an ambulance.

Supported by the World Stroke Organisation, the five-week programme facilitated by teachers involves weekly activities and reinforcement designed to captivate young minds.

“Statistics show that stroke is a serious concern in South Africa and globally, ranking as the second leading cause of death, and the third leading cause of disability worldwide.

“Unfortunately, many stroke victims don’t receive timely medical care owing to a lack of awareness about the key signs.

“Children hold the power to change this by educating their families,” emphasises Prof Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.

Pupils are encouraged to become ‘superheroes’ in their families, especially helping grandparents.

Renathe van der Merwe, the national co-ordinator for FAST Heroes says, “With global stroke figures on the rise, recognising symptoms and knowing how to respond are vital life skills.

“Children serve as exceptional messengers for disseminating this crucial message to adults around them. I extend a challenge to schools to join forces; together we can make a transformative difference and save lives, one grandparent at a time.”

The impactful initiative is spearheaded by a cast of animated characters, including retired superhero grandparents and their grandchildren, Timmy and Tanya.

Children are taught to become adept at identifying three key signs of a stroke: facial drooping, arm weakness, and speech impairment, hence the campaign acronym ‘FAST’.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the media have repeatedly praised healthcare workers for their ‘heroic’ work. Although this gratitude is undoubtedly appreciated by many, we must be cautious about overuse of the term ‘hero’ in such discussions. The challenges currently faced by healthcare workers are substantially greater than those encountered in their normal work, and it is understandable that the language of heroism has been evoked to praise them for their actions. Yet such language can have potentially negative consequences. Here, I examine what heroism is and why it is being applied to the healthcare workers currently, before outlining some of the problems associated with the heroism narrative currently being employed by the media. Healthcare workers have a clear and limited duty to treat during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can be grounded in a broad social contract and is strongly associated with certain reciprocal duties that society has towards healthcare workers. I argue that the heroism narrative can be damaging, as it stifles meaningful discussion about what the limits of this duty to treat are. It fails to acknowledge the importance of reciprocity, and through its implication that all healthcare workers have to be heroic, it can have negative psychological effects on workers themselves. I conclude that rather than invoking the language of heroism to praise healthcare workers, we should examine, as a society, what duties healthcare workers have to work in this pandemic, and how we can support them in fulfilling these.

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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Stanley Hammond


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