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Information provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We’re all aware that the number of strokes per year in the U.S. is about to cross the 800,000 threshold, but it’s shocking to see how much of that is concentrated in the Southeast region.

Just take a look at this map of the “Stroke Belt” to see how bad it’s gotten in Dixie. It makes you wonder what folks in Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Albany are doing right – and why that success can’t be repeated in the South.

When you take a closer look, you’ll see that many of the nation’s stroke “hot spots” are in underserved areas like northern Maine and in rural parts of the Pacific Northwest. But the South is where you see ample evidence of a double-whammy: a large number of rural communities that don’t have access to advanced stroke care, plus the nation’s highest rates of obesity and high blood pressure.

You’d think that most hospitals in the Southeast would be staffing up on stroke specialists left and right, but many simply can’t afford the high cost of on-site neurointensivists. That’s why telemedicine has such a huge role to play in turning the Stroke Belt into the Southern Success Zone.

Although some sections of the country are more stroke-prone, that doesn’t diminish the need for telestroke capabilities in every community. New Mexico may have enviable stroke statistics, but that doesn’t mean much to someone experiencing a possible stroke in a small town like Portales or Hobbs. Survival trumps statistics every time.

This map makes one thing crystal-clear: hospitals in the South must implement telestroke programs with an urgency akin to D-Day. This year, the number of stroke deaths will be enough to fill two NFL stadiums. That’s totally unacceptable. It’s time to declare war on stroke, with telestroke programs leading the charge.

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