Stroke is a major public health issue in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Despite the emergence of new effective interventions for acute stroke care, uptake remains slow and largely inaccessible to patients in LMICs, where health systems response has been inadequate. In this paper, we propose a policy framework to optimise access to acute stroke care in LMICs. We draw on evidence from relevant primary studies, such as availability of evidence-based acute stroke care interventions, barriers to uptake of interventions for stroke care and insights on stroke mortality and morbidity burden in LMICs. Insights from review of secondary studies, principally systematic reviews on evidence-based acute stroke care; and the accounts and experiences of some regional experts on stroke and other NCDs have been taken into consideration. In LMICs, there is limited availability and access to emergency medical transport services, brain imaging services and best practice interventions for acute stroke care. Availability of specialist acute stroke workforce and low awareness of early stroke signs and symptoms are also major challenges impeding the delivery of quality stroke care services. As a result, stroke care in LMICs is patchy, fragmented and often results in poor patient outcomes. Reconfiguration of LMIC health systems is thus required to optimise access to quality acute stroke care. We therefore propose a ten-point framework to be adapted to country-specific health system capacity, needs and resources: Emergency medical transport and treatment services, scaling-up interventions and services for acute stroke care, clinical guidelines for acute stroke treatment and management, access to brain imaging services, human resource capacity development strategies, centralisation of stroke services, tele-stroke care, public awareness campaigns on early stroke symptoms, establish stroke registers and financing of stroke care in LMICs. While we recognise the challenges of implementing the recommendations in low resource settings, this list can provide a platform as well serve as the starting point for advocacy and prioritisation of interventions depending on context.
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