By Anita Arsovska, Hrvoje Budincevic and Francesca Pezzella
The Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) Working Conference& General Assembly took place in Zagreb, Croatia, 06th-08th of December 2017 and was co-hosted by the Croatian Stroke Society. The plenary lectures and workshops were attended by 98 delegates from 32 countries. The Working Conference started with the introductory speech of SAFE’s President, Jon Barrick, who welcomed the delegates and than announced Academician Prof. Vida Demarin, FESO, who greeted the attendees, wishing them a successful conference and a pleasant stay in Zagreb.
The official programme began with launching of the Stroke Support Organisation Faculty Tool (SSOFT) by Victoria Brewer, SAFE Project and Organization Director. SSOFT is a new and innovative e-learning initiative being developed by SAFE that aims to increase the capacity and capability of Stroke Support Organizations (SSOs) to advocate for better prevention strategies, diagnosis and treatment, as well as aftercare, at a local and national level. Its purpose is also to deliver an online information and education training tool which can be utilized by SSOs and stroke professionals initially across Europe, with the potential to expand worldwide.
Than, 6 workshops took place, dedicated to the development of SSOFT and the role of SSOFT in supporting the SSOs.
In the afternoon, Jelena Misita from SAFE and Anita Wiseman from the World Stroke Organization (WSO) provided plenary and workshop activity enabling shaping and discussion of World Stroke Day activities.
Afterwards, delegates attended another set of workshops, where topics on peer-to-peer support and fundraising issues for SSOs were discussed. The first day of the Working Conference finished with the meeting of the Country Clusters, where future activities were agreed.
The second day began with the lecture of Prof. Bart van der Worp, President Elect of the European Stroke Organisation (ESO), who introduced the Stroke Action Plan for Europe. This plan shall be launched at European Stroke Organisation Conference in Gothenburg, followed by a launch at the European Parliament, in May 2018.
The next plenary session consisted of presentations delivered by the members of the Life After Stroke Domain Group. Markus Wagner, SAFE’s Vice-President gave introduction of the domain group’s work, Diana Wong Ramos shared her experience and perspective as a young stroke survivor, Harriet Proios talked about emotional stability and connection to people, while Juliet Bouverie updated the delegates of Life After Stroke strategy of the Stroke Association.
Again, 4 different workshops took place, dedicated to health issues, activity issues, wellbeing and information and support issues.
Afterwards, the representative from Weber Shandwick presented their engagement with the European Institutions in Brussels for better policies on stroke, followed by Ramon Luengo Fernandez from the Oxford University who talked about the Economic Impact of Stroke in Europe.
The afternoon session, chaired by Prof. Anita Arsovska, SAFE Board Member, was dedicated to childhood stroke. Michelle Dalmacio presented the Evelina London Children’s Hospital Stroke Project, Markus Wagner gave an overview of Children and Stroke in Germany, while Francesca Fedeli and Roberto D’Angelo shared their life story that led to the foundation of Fight the Stroke organization in Italy.
On the third day, the General Assembly took place, where SAFE welcomed three new member organizations (Irish Heart Foundation, Beyinder Turkey and France AVC). Jon Barrick was re-elected as SAFE’s President, while Harriklia Proios from Greece was elected as new member of the SAFE Board. Dr. Gary Randall, SAFE’s European Research Manager, presented the new project proposals within SAFE, such as Prestige-AF and Tension, emphasizing the fact that the EU strongly encourages patients representation and dissemination of information to the non-scientific community (through social media, patients literature, websites etc). At the end of the General Assembly, Jon Barrick thanked the Board Members and all delegates for their contribution, as well as Sandra Jackson, SAFE Secretariat, for the excellent organization of this event. Mr. Barrick announced that the venue for the 2018 SAFE Conference will be Berlin, Germany, on the occasion on the 25th Anniversary of the German Stroke Foundation that shall co-host the event.