I am not normally a big fan of promotional emails, but one I received today originated with the The Stroke Association as part of its FAST campaign aiming to teach people how to spot the warning signs of an attack.
Interesting to see FAST described as an awareness campaign by the Stroke Association as it does much more than that. The campaign has a clear, simple checklist of symptoms that are easy to remember and recall, enabling the correct action to be taken as a result. Recipients of the email are not only aware, but equipped to adopt the right behaviour as a result:
Can the person smile? Has their mouth or either eye dropped?
Can the person raise both arms?
Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time to call 999
Any one of these symptoms could indicate a stroke.
Like the meningitis glass test, FAST shows a simple message is most likely to be remembered and enable appropriate action to be taken.
Although the email approach seems very easy and effective, the Hoax Slayer has a warning about a similar US campaign. It highlights that “the absence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate that a person is NOT having a stroke”.
Also, the US version of the email has been embellished with a personal example and a claim that “A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people, you can bet that at least one life will be saved”. This statement is apparently “lifted verbatim from a hoax email that outlines a dubious “cough CPR” procedure for heart attack victims”.
As the Hoax Slayer states, such embellishments are “completely unnecessary and detract from the underlying message”. The site also notes:
A problem with email forwards is that the core information tends to become garbled or diluted as various individuals decide to add to or modify the message as it travels through cyberspace. For example, the current version implies that stumbling is potentially a key element in diagnosing a stroke. However, there is nothing about stumbling mentioned in the Stroke Association report. Although the NSA does identify loss of balance and difficulty walking as potential stroke symptoms, stumbling alone is hardly a valid indicator of an impending stroke.
This unfortunate tendency for messages to mutate as they travel means that it may not always be a good idea to pass on even those rare email forwards that contain factual and verifiable information. Also, as explained above, the misuse of such information due to false assumptions or lack of understanding can have dangerous repercussions.
I always believe in checking back to original sources for any such emails that I receive, and I was impressed that the UK version can be emailed direct from the Stroke Association website. This ensures its credibility as a source of reliable advice.