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Budget 2012: Taking on rheumatic fever

9 May 2012

Media Statement

Budget 2012: Taking on rheumatic fever

The Government’s campaign to stamp out a third world disease reached Porirua today with a new school throat swabbing programme - part of a $24 million five-year campaign to reduce rheumatic fever.

Launching the expanded throat swabbing programme at Holy Family School in Porirua with Prime Minister John Key, Associate Health Minister and Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said the Government was determined to significantly reduce this serious disease.

“Rheumatic fever in children is a serious issue in this area,” Mrs Turia says. “Children whose sore throats progress to rheumatic fever are significantly at risk of major heart damage later in life.

“But with proper antibiotic treatment at the sore throat stage, we reduce that risk of heart damage by up to 80 per cent.

“That’s why the Prime Minister is taking on rheumatic fever as part of his better public service challenge to support vulnerable children. And it’s why the Government, with the support of the Māori Party, is spending $24 million targeting 35,000 at risk children in seven regions.”

In Budget 2012, the Government is adding $12 million in operating spending to the campaign over the next four years, bringing the total five-year package to $24 million.

Porirua City has the highest rate of rheumatic fever among five to 15 year olds, Mrs Turia says.

“We’re making sure there will be enough funding so that all schools here in Waitangirua, Cannons Creek and Porirua East can take part, and as many children as possible covered.

“Māori and Pacific people – mostly children – living in cold over-crowded homes are most likely to get it. “They are more than 20 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with first time acute rheumatic fever than anyone else.”

Throat-swabbing programmes with antibiotic follow up are also in place for schools in Northland, South Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Tairawhiti, Hawke's Bay and Porirua.

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