After a long career in healthcare witnessing care discrepancies for survivors of strokes, Rita Melifonwu founded Stroke Action Nigeria, an organization to rehabilitate the physical, psychosocial, and vocational ability of those survivors while educating the public on stroke risk factors through media campaigns and community outreach.
Due in part to her 2018 involvement in a scaling program which is a collaboration between the Philips Foundation and Ashoka, Rita is piloting a franchise model where stroke survivors are trained to open a local Stroke Action Center and manage all aspects of their own business from community education to supporting rehabilitation, thereby becoming 'Stroke Entrepreneurs'. 15 Stroke Entrepreneurs are already trained and on their way. The goal is to have 1,000 trained over the next ten years, each running their own stroke centers across Nigeria and eventually across Africa. Stroke Action Nigeria is currently looking for access to finance to help these health workers build and operate their own stroke centers.
A member of the pilot cohort of health workers, Ms. Onyinye Iromba, says, “I found Stroke Action Nigeria sometime after I was discharged from hospital, and my experiences of rehabilitation and therapy have been wonderful. I was put on their functional rehabilitation and exercise training after stroke program. This helped me to gain confidence in myself and start speaking and walking properly again. I was a manager in a private company before my stroke, but I was dismissed when I had a stroke. Stroke Action Nigeria trained me as a volunteer health worker, so two days a week I did admin support for their prevention clinic and was a peer coach for exercise training helping other stroke survivors to get better.”
Stroke Action Nigeria is creating systems change by not only mobilizing the human and educational resources but also the financial and legal resources necessary to make stroke care a reality on a national level by influencing government policy. As a result, since 2018, stroke survivors are now legally entitled to access the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund, enabling them to receive care thanks to Rita's strong government lobbying on the topic.
Hear more about Stroke Action Nigeria directly from Rita in this 2-min. video: