Alexandria, VA – Mayor Silberberg proclaimed Alexandria a Stroke Smart City, the first of its kind in America. Today, Alan Stillman, CEO of Kwikpoint and founder of the Stroke Smart campaign, is furthering that initiative throughout Virginia.
It all started on a bike in 1986. While taking a worldwide bike trip through 28 countries, traveling over 15,000 miles, Alan found inspiration for Kwikpoint, a visual language publishing company.
Kwikpoint visual language tools were designed to help travelers conquer language barriers. Posters and cards with images allow people to point to pictures to communicate instantly. After 9/11, Kwikpoint created a US military communication tool to identify Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“What I learned is that pictures are a powerful aid for recognition and memory,” Alan explains. When Alan was 12, his grandmother, Rose, passed away from stroke complications.
Impassioned by this memory, Alan created a visual language tool for identifying stroke symptoms and has been giving it out for free in our city. Alan calls his campaign Stroke Smart Alexandria. In his 2017 TED Talk, Alan presented some scary statistics: strokes kill 6 million people a year and are the number two cause of death globally.
Why is stroke so deadly? Most people suffer significant consequences from stroke due to a delay in getting to the hospital, thus missing the window for potentially life-saving treatments. Pre-hospital delay occurs because a stroke’s signs are subtle and often mistaken for other seemingly harmless conditions, such as intoxication.
The symptoms of stroke you should look for are: Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided? Is one arm weak or drifting downward? Is the person experiencing slurred speech, numbness on one side of the body, loss of balance or impaired vision, and sudden onset of severe headache?
“Here’s the good news: if you spot a stroke in time, you can stop a stroke,” Alan says. The purpose of Stroke Smart Alexandria is to help everyone in the city learn to spot and stop a stroke. You will find Stroke Smart materials in hospitals, libraries, retail shops, restaurants, and coffee shops across Alexandria.
These materials are designed to raise public awareness and encourage long-term retention of important stroke information. The content—stroke symptoms, facts, and statistics—is presented in visual language. The physical forms of the materials—posters, wallet cards, and fridge magnets—ensure maximum and sustained public exposure.
Alan has partnered with organizations across the city, including Alexandria Police and Sheriff Departments, the VA Department of Health, and Alexandria City Public Schools, to spread knowledge of how to spot and stop a stroke. “There has been a lot of appreciation in response to Stroke Smart,” explains Alan. “The police force is excited, and students are going home and teaching their families all they have learned.”
In three years, Stroke Smart Alexandria has achieved several significant milestones. The success has encouraged Alan to expand the campaign, turning Stroke Smart Alexandria into Stroke Smart Virginia. Alan is partnering with the Virginia Stroke System Task Force to work with hospital stroke coordinators and primary care physicians to educate the public in Virginia counties and cities.
He is also looking for opportunities to collaborate with public health researchers to publish on the Stroke Smart initiative and gain visibility for the campaign.
It is often said that if you want to enact change, you should think globally, act locally. Alan embodies that. Born from pure intentions, Stroke Smart started here and is spreading outward to other locations. “If America would get this,” says Alan, “think of the lives we could save, and have already saved. This small act can make a big difference.” If you want to help make that difference, contact Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about becoming a champion of the Stroke Smart campaign. And look for Stroke Smart materials on all the red Zebra newspaper boxes in Old Town Alexandria.