North Carolina is located in the country’s “Stroke Belt,” an eight- to 12-state region that historically has had substantially higher stroke death rates than the rest of the nation. Furthermore, the eastern counties of NC are part of the “Buckle of the Stroke Belt” (the coastal plains of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina), which has had the highest stroke death rates in the nation for at least the past 30 years. The Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force was charged with creating the North Carolina Stroke Advisory Council (House Bill 1860 signed into law in August 2006).
The Stroke Advisory Council advises the Justus-Warren Task Force regarding the development of a statewide system of care which included a process for identifying and disseminating information about the location of primary stroke centers.
Members are appointed by the Justus-Warren Task Force and are to include representation from several key stakeholders including the North Carolina Medical Society, North Carolina College of Emergency Physicians, Old North State Medical Society, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, the North Carolina Hospital Association, the North Carolina Association of Rescue and Emergency Medical Services and Area Health Education Centers.
The Task Force may also appoint other members to provide expertise beneficial to the Council. In addition, the Council has received substantial benefit from the active participation of numerous partners and stakeholders.
One of the first tasks of the Stroke Advisory Council was to provide findings and recommendations to the Justus-Warren Task Force regarding the development of a statewide system of stroke care for its report due to the General Assembly on February 15, 2007. The Stroke Advisory Council convened on September 22, 2006 and the Preliminary Findings and Recommendations Report was submitted in January 2007.
In 2008, the Stroke Advisory Council was able to accelerate the development of the comprehensive Stroke System of Care Plan with additional resources available from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and administrative support from the NC Public Health Foundation. There were approximately 80 individuals, representing diverse organizations, areas of expertise and points of view, engaged in the planning process. The work of this large group was facilitated through the establishment of five work groups which aligned with the components of a comprehensive stroke system of care:
- Prevention/Public Awareness
- Pre-Hospital Care
- Acute/Subacute Care
- Recovery/Transitions of Care
Each work group was charged with developing specific recommendations for their area of focus that addressed:
- Needs and gaps in services and resources for North Carolina stroke patients and their families.
- Strategies to improve care through evidence-based interventions when possible and best or promising practices when more thoroughly tested strategies were not available.
The resulting plan, Stroke System of Care Plan for North Carolina, provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing the burden of stroke in North Carolina.
The Stroke Advisory Council and its working groups have continued to meet and work diligently to address identified needs in the prevention of stroke and the care of those who experience it. Many of the Stroke Advisory Council members and partners assisted with the development of the 2012-2017 North Carolina Plan for the Prevention and Management of Heart Disease and Stroke.