Every year, countless lives are affected by stroke, a medical emergency that can have devastating consequences. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, and the leading cause of long-term disability in Singapore. Every year, there are approximately 7,000 new stroke cases, with thousands of individuals and their families facing the challenges of recovery and rehabilitation. Many stroke survivors require long-term care and rehabilitation, which can be emotionally and financially taxing for both the survivors and their families.
Stepping Out for Stroke (SOFS) is an annual walkathon organized by Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) that aims to raise awareness about stroke, celebrate the resilience of stroke survivors, and promote a healthy and active lifestyle.
The walkathon is open to everyone, including stroke survivors, their caregivers, family members, friends, and the wider community. The event plays a crucial role in achieving the following goals:
Awareness: One of the primary objectives of Stepping Out for Stroke is to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of stroke. Knowledge is the first step towards prevention, and by educating the public, we can reduce the number of strokes in Singapore.
Prevention: Many strokes are preventable. Lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, and smoking, play a significant role in stroke risk. The event provides information on how to reduce these risk factors and make healthier choices.
Support for Stroke Survivors: Stepping Out for Stroke also provides a platform for stroke survivors and their caregivers to connect, share their experiences, and offer emotional support. This community plays an essential role in helping survivors cope with the challenges of recovery.
Fundraising: The event often involves fundraising efforts to support stroke research, rehabilitation services, and community outreach programs. These funds can make a substantial difference in the lives of stroke survivors and their families.
SOFS has been running since 2016. This year, SOFS was held at Our Tampines Hub on Saturday 21 October 2023 and was attended by over 600 people including stroke survivors, healthcare professionals and volunteers from many organisations including hospitals, day rehabilitation centres, government organisations and other voluntary welfare organisations. The event started out with a stroke awareness talk in English and Mandarin by Dr Loh Yong Joo (SNSA secretary), followed by two SNSA performances by stroke survivors – a seated martial arts performance by The Soaring Cranes and a self-composed rap by Clarice Pereira. All were led by stroke survivors and truly showed the spirit of creativity and different ways to stay physically active after a stroke.
The wonderful performances were followed by a welcome address by A/Prof Shamala Thilarajah (SNSA President) and an opening address by our Guest of Honour Mr Eric Chua (Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social and Family Development & Culture, Community and Youth). Our distinguished guests, Prof. Joerg Kreuzer (Medical Director, Head of Medicine - ASEAN, South Korea, Australia, NZ) and Dr.Azhar bin Ahmad (Head of Medicine - Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia) also introduced our new FAST hero, Tanya, who will undoubtedly inspire others to act quickly when recognizing the signs of a stroke.
At 11.00am, participants were flagged off by our Guest of Honour, distinguished guests and our SNSA President. The event saw stroke survivors and volunteers walking, running or wheeling for 1km or 2km to raise funds for SNSA. Volunteers were from SNSA, Singapore
Physiotherapy Association, Team Nila (SportCares), and students from Singapore Institute of Technology. We were grateful to their commitment as they endured the scorching hot sun and supported our stroke survivors every step of the way during the race. As stroke survivors crossed the finish line, what was most heartwarming was to see the line of volunteers who cheered them on with claps and encouraging words! The essence and heart of SOFS was truly captured in that moment.
SOFS continues to be an inspiring initiative that brings together individuals, healthcare professionals, and organizations to raise awareness, promote prevention and celebrate life after stroke. It continues to be a day filled with hope, unity, and the collective determination of many to make a difference in the lives of stroke survivors and their families. The sense of community and support is palpable, and it leaves a lasting impact on all who attend.
Together, SNSA and its supporters will continue to step out for stroke, raise awareness, celebrate resilience, and promote a healthier future for all. We are keeping the momentum going and will be planning for a bigger and better SOFS. Together, we can make a difference, one step at a time. For more information about SNSA and how to get involved, please visit SNSA's website.
By: A/Prof Kwah Li Khim