World Stroke Day: Our mission to revolutionise care in Malawi

Laura Benjamin, Simone Browning, Selina Edwards and Rob Simister

Dr Laura Benjamin from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health is part of a team of clinical stroke professionals aiming to bring together the right training, funding and expertise to open a stroke unit in Malawi.

“Today marks World Stroke Day, and therefore a good time to reflect on the achievements made in stroke care and highlight important gaps. Over the last two decades, stroke care has been revolutionised, but the present situation for low-to-middle income countries is starkly different to the rest of the world.

In high-income countries like the UK, we can now boast of a substantial reduction in the number of new strokes occurring every year, a reduction in disability and death from a stroke and more recently, a reversal of disability after a stroke. The former is due to treating vascular risk factors like hypertension and diabetes better along with the roll-out of stroke units. The latter is due to the introduction of interventions for stroke caused by a blood clot, including drugs to disintegrate the clot (thrombolysis) and the use of sophisticated technology to mechanically remove the clot (thrombectomy). Critically, patients need to present to a hospital early (within 4.5 hours) to benefit from these interventions. Of course, more can be done and continues to be done but the future is bright for stroke care in this part of the world.

However, the reverse is true in low-to-middle income countries. There is a global health crisis in stroke and these regions are now the most affected, yet unfortunately most are not equipped to handle it. Malawi is one example – it is the 3rd poorest country in the world, 50% of the population live below the poverty line ($1 per day) and only 10% have access to electricity. In countries like Malawi, having a stroke can have devastating social-economic consequences both for the stroke victim and the family members that care for them.

The University of Liverpool in collaboration with University College London Hospitals and University College London is currently working in partnership with Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) and the Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme to build Malawi’s first stroke unit.

The vision for the the Malawi Stroke Unit, which plans to open in 2019 within QECH, is to create a cost-effective and sustainable unit that will serve as a national centre of excellence for delivery of stroke care, training and research. Ultimately we want to help change the devastating effects that stroke has on the people of Malawi.”

To find out more or to donate to the Malawi Stroke Unit fundraising campaign please visit:

Follow the team on Twitter @malawistroke1

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