• Vol. 42 No. 6, 269–277
  • 15 June 2013

Public Awareness of Sepsis and Stroke in Singapore: A Population-Based Survey



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Introduction: Management guidelines emphasise the importance of prompt therapeutic intervention for sepsis as well as stroke, both of which are common causes of death. Unfortunately, a rate-limiting step may be delayed presentation to the emergency department by patients themselves. The aim of this study was to assess public awareness of sepsis and stroke in Singapore.

Materials and Methods: This was a population-based, structured telephone survey of adults in Singapore.

Results: There were 1067 completed surveys (response rate 50.3%). The survey population was mostly comparable with the actual Singapore population. Fifty-three respondents (5.0%) had heard of the term sepsis. Of these, 45 respondents (4.2%) could provide at least one accepted definition of sepsis, the commonest being that of an unspecified infection. Respondents mostly heard about sepsis from school, the Internet, and newspapers. On the other hand, 963 respondents (90.3%) had heard of the term stroke. Of these, 818 respondents (76.7%) could name at least one accepted warning sign of stroke, the commonest being that of numbness, while 806 respondents (75.5%) could name at least one accepted risk factor for stroke, the commonest being hypertension. Respondents mostly heard about stroke from television, newspapers, a relative, a friend, media (unspecified), and the Internet.

Conclusion: Our findings reflect the differences in the public profile of sepsis versus stroke in Singapore. More concerted efforts involving healthcare professionals, medical societies, statutory boards, and the mass media are required to improve public awareness of these 2 conditions —especially sepsis.

Sepsis and stroke are common diseases with several similarities. Firstly, they are both frequent causes of death. A recent review by Adhikari and colleagues based on data from the United States and the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that sepsis kills more than 11,000 people per day, while the 2004 WHO Global Burden of Disease
project revealed that stroke causes at least 15,000 deaths daily. In 2009, at least 17% of all deaths in Singapore were due to sepsis from pneumonia and urinary tract infection
while 8% were due to cerebrovascular disease.

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