The trial of a free app developed by a Kiwi researcher has indicated as many as 300 strokes could be prevented each year in New Zealand if there was widespread uptake.
AUT Professor Valery Feigin developed the Stroke Riskometer in 2014. It has since been endorsed by the World Stroke Organisation and the World Heart Federation.
The recently released results of the NZ trial, which was funded by Brain Research New Zealand, showed the app motivated people change their lifestyle to reduce their risk of a stroke and Feigin said those changes equated to about a 3 per cent stroke reduction annually.
"It is huge. It may look not very much but if you convert it to absolute numbers it is about 300 strokes. This is equivalent to about $20 million annual savings for the country."
About 9000 people a year have a stroke in New Zealand. Feigin said in theory 90 per cent of those could be avoided but realistically the annual number of strokes could be halved.
The app asks users a series of questions to determine their relative risk of stroke, specific risk factors and ways of reducing those specific factors.
Research had found that general recommendations, like a healthy diet, exercising and not smoking did not work but actions tailored to a person's specific risk factors were much more motivational, Feigin said.
He said 70 per cent of the trial participants were of Maori or Pacific Island descent because they have a greater prevalence of risk factors, in particular lifestyle habits, which were very difficult to change because they were often part of the culture.
"Even in this very hard to change population in terms of the lifestyle the Riskometer showed motivational power and many of them changed."
It could also reduce the rate of diabetes, heart attacks and dementia as they had similar risk factors, he said.
Next year a large-scale trial of the Stroke Riskometer app would take place across Australia and New Zealand thanks to $5m from Australia's National Health and Medical Council.
Funding was also set aside for stroke prevention in Brain Research New Zealand's Centres of Research Excellency application, which was turned down meaning most of the organisation's funds would disappear from the middle of next year.
Feigin said reducing the burden of neurological disorders like strokes through prevention should be "the public health priority". He said the disorders were the leading cause of disability and most frequent cause of death and the situation was worsening as the population aged.
"I was very, very surprised that we did not get that funding because it was the kind of application we must be funding. We are not funding healthy ageing in New Zealand, which is really appalling."
Feigin was also working with Waitemata DHB to help them implement a programme on their patient management system that used the Stroke Riskometer algorithm so clinicians could quickly develop a personalised plan for patients.
He hoped it could eventually be implemented nationally but said Government support would be needed.
"Just the status quo is not acceptable. We need changes. We need more cost-efficient tools to reduce the stroke burden."
A large trial of the Stroke Riskometer was taking place in Brazil and others were planned for Malaysia and China, he said.
Last year, at a meeting in Brazil 22 Latin American countries adopted a resolution to implement Stroke Riskometer in their countries.