Although black adults and youth know the symptoms of a stroke, other factors—such as concerns about medical cost, ambulance response time, and unfamiliarity with the benefits of speedy hospital care—influence how quickly they call for help, according to findings published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes and reported by the University of Michigan Health System.

For the study, stroke specialists and public health experts from the university partnered with Bridges of the Future, a community service agency in Flint, Michigan. The researchers surveyed a group of 77 African Americans in Flint, a city with a prominent black population. Findings showed that African-American adults and youth cited more obstacles that stopped them from getting help for signs of stroke. What’s more, these barriers led to more deaths and disability.

One of those barriers included their mistrust of health care providers. “There was little confidence that an ambulance would come, or if it did, it would be too late,” said Sarah Bailey, MA, a former social worker and leader of Bridges to the Future as well as a study coauthor.

Lesli Skolarus, MD, a neurologist and the study’s lead author, pointed out that most adults and young participants recognized that stroke was an emergency. As such, Skolarus added, in order to increase 911 calls for stroke, “interventions will need to address factors beyond identification of stroke warning signs.”

How quickly stroke sufferers arrive at the hospital is critical. If doctors can treat patients with intravenous clot-busting drugs within four and half hours of a stroke, they can reduce permanent damage, such as paralysis or vision and speech impairments.

In order to encourage 911 calls, researchers suggested stressing that quick treatment reduces the chances of post-stroke disability. In addition, scientists said there must be a more thorough review of perceptions and possible improvements of emergency response systems.

Another Michigan University study explored African Americans’ mistrust of health care providers—this time among highly educated, young black people. Click here to read more.