GSU will play key role in Southland stroke prevention initiative


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Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (second from left) and Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin hold the proclamation announcing GSU’s collaboration on the stroke prevention project. GSU Provost Beverly Schneller (left) and Tonya Roberson, GSU’s Director of Program Development, look on.

Governors State University will play a major role in a new program focused on stroke awareness, prevention and treatment in the Southland.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and State Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin (38th) came to GSU on Friday, Feb. 24 to help launch the new collaborative project between the Illinois Department of Health and GSU’s College of Health and Human Services.

Passage of the Southland Stroke Prevention and Awareness Campaign bill that was sponsored by Meyers-Martin provided the impetus for the collaboration. Although implementation is dependent on funding by the state, Stratton said she was confident the funds would be made available.

“Everyone plays a role in this work, and we are in a critical moment where we can dig in and make a change,” said Stratton. “The reality is that far too many lives are disrupted or cut too short by strokes. Black and Brown families bear the brunt of this trauma.”

She pointed out that the legislation would allow health agencies to address health care inequities among the races.

“This disproportionately impacts black people,” said Dr. Tonya Roberson, GSU Director of Community and Engagement Program Development and Academic Success. “The risk of having a first stroke is nearly two times higher in Black people. Black people (have) higher health concerns and risks leading to stroke. Some strides have been made but (they) play a significant role in the proposal for this Bill.”

The legislation, House Bill 5014, empowers students and faculty of GSU to continue promoting public health by providing information on strokes for communities most affected.

“Our mission is to develop an educational and prevention program,” said Meyers-Martin. “The campaign also paves waves for GSU, a minority-serving institute, to collaborate with other academic and medical institutions and community-based organizations to develop an outreach and education program to raise awareness of stroke, stroke prevention, and eliminate death and disabilities.”

“Supplying these tools gives options and helps make informed decisions; this will be a collective impact,” Meyers-Martin added. “I’m happy to report Franciscan Health Hospital in Olympia Fields has been redesignated as an acute stroke-ready hospital.”

The campaign’s goal is to promote education of the public on causes, signs/symptoms, what treatment consists of, and self-advocacy and support within the Chicago Southland community.

 “This is how we create a better future, by joining forces and ensuring all voices are heard and are part of the conversation; our administration stands with you because we recognize quality accessible healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” said Stratton.

The Southland Stroke Prevention and Awareness campaign is a significant stride to bringing health equity for all, Stratton said. “This turning point will have lasting impacts on this region, the families, and communities; lives will be saved; I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Black History than saving Black lives,” she said.

Stratton took the opportunity of visiting GSU to point out Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s 2023 budget recommendations include increases in support for higher education. Pritzker has proposed increasing funding for Illinois public universities by 7% (the highest increase in funding for higher education in 20 years.)

Stratton confirmed the new fiscal request includes more funding for MAP grants, creating more opportunities for all students to attend college.