In Australia, many deaths and significant cardiac disability result from delayed response to symptoms of heart attack.
Although delays due to transport and initiation of reperfusion therapy in hospital may contribute to late treatment, the major component of delay is the time patients take in deciding to seek help.
A critical examination of campaigns to shorten patient delay concludes that they were based on a factual, short-term, non-targeted approach that included education and mass media strategies. They achieved equivocal results.
One randomised controlled trial has been conducted. Although this showed an improved understanding of heart attack symptoms, it did not shorten pre-hospital delays.
The implications of these findings are that future campaigns to shorten patient delay are likely to be more effective if they address the psychosocial and behavioural blocks to action, are ongoing rather than short term, and focus on people at highest risk, including those with known or high risk of coronary heart disease, those in rural locations, and Indigenous Australians.
The National Heart Foundation of Australia proposes a comprehensive strategy to incorporate this approach into its future campaigns to reduce patient delay for suspected heart attack.
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