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Study to evaluate best school clinic treatments

Study to evaluate best school clinic treatments
Media Release

University of Auckland

3 February 2014

A major research project evaluating the effectiveness of school clinics to help prevent acute rheumatic fever in children is underway in three district health boards.

This research is funded from the $24 million the Government allocated to rheumatic fever control in New Zealand.

The research, led by University of Auckland child health and infectious diseases researcher, Professor Diana Lennon, may determine future protocols for school-based sore throat clinics around the country.

The three health boards involved in the evaluation are Counties Manukau, Auckland and Bay of Plenty and the study will involve 700-1000 school-aged children in each area.

The three-year project is one of three research projects focussed on controlling rheumatic fever in children, underway this year for a total of $2.4 million funded by the Health Research Council NZ.
Group A streptococcal sore (GAS) throat is an infectious disease that can lead to acute rheumatic fever and associated heart disease, causing reduced life span in some.

Although acute rheumatic fever has largely been eliminated in the developed world, the rates in New Zealand’s Maori and Pacific communities are 30 to 60 times higher than in European and Asian people.

“To get the best outcome for these children, we will examine the success of various school clinic GAS control programmes in schools in these three district health board areas,” she says.

“The amount of GAS, both from skin and throat infections, will be measured before and after the commencement of these school clinics, and the study will also compare different initiatives that might reduce GAS in a selected group of schools,” says Professor Lennon. “Later on, the role of school clinics in rheumatic fever reduction will be measured.”

“The outcome of our research will we hope, help to fine tune the control of rheumatic fever in New Zealand,” she says.

“This latest study is part of a 30 year journey making progress on better control of rheumatic fever. Earlier studies have set the scene for the latest research projects. In recent years we have worked with the Heart Foundation of NZ to develop guidelines for treating GAS and rheumatic fever, to develop guidelines for primary prevention, diagnosis of rheumatic fever and sore throat management.”

“The amount of Group A strep in households is high. This is most likely because of over-crowding, poor access to healthcare and lack of health knowledge,” says Professor Lennon.

“Group A strep pharyngitis is very infectious. It may go away without treatment after three days, or it can develop into rheumatic fever three weeks later in a very small percentage of children,” she says.

ENDS

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