Background: It is important that the general population be aware of the early symptoms, since it has been shown that early arrival to hospitals leads better prognosis of stroke patients. However, the general population is not well informed about the early symptoms of stroke. This study was conducted to clarify which stroke symptoms are less well known and which information sources are related to awareness of stroke symptoms. Methods: A multiple-choice, mail-in survey involving 5,540 randomly selected residents, aged 40-74 years, of 3 cities in Japan was conducted. Their knowledge about stroke symptoms and their information sources were surveyed; information sources were classified as mass media (television/newspaper/radio) and personal communication sources (posters/leaflets/internet/health professionals/family and/or friends). 'Awareness' was defined as selecting all 5 of the correct stroke symptoms from among 10 listed symptoms with decoy choices. The estimated fraction of the possible impact due to each source on the whole population was also calculated by odds ratios (ORs) and the proportion of respondents who selected each source (Pe). The combined effects of mass media and personal communication sources on awareness were also assessed. Results: Of the 5,540 residents, only 23% selected all 5 correct symptoms. Visual disturbance was the least known of the 5 symptoms (35%). All sources were positively related to awareness, with ORs (Pe) of: television, 1.58 (72.5%); newspaper, 1.79 (48.0%); radio, 1.74 (13.3%); posters, 1.73 (7.6%); leaflets, 1.50 (24.7%); Internet, 1.66 (5.6%); health professionals, 1.33 (34.8%), and family/friends, 1.21 (44.6%). The estimated fraction of the possible impact due to each source was higher for mass media (television, 0.31 and newspaper, 0.28) than personal communication sources (Internet, 0.04 and leaflets, 0.12). Mass media only and mass media/personal communication sources were significantly associated (ORs: 1.66, 2.75, respectively). Conclusions: As a single method of public education, television could be the most effective strategy. Moreover, the combined approach involving mass media and personal communication sources might have a synergistic effect. Less well-known symptoms, such as visual disturbances, should be noted in public education campaigns.
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