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Rheumatic fever focus on wrong areas

Annette King
Health Spokesperson

6 May 2013

Rheumatic fever focus on wrong areas

A report highlighting the failure of the Government’s much-lauded rheumatic fever campaign has embarrassed it into promising millions more to help tackle the problem, though the spend is not in the right place, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

“Rheumatic fever rates among our poorest communities are at third world level.

“This latest round of Budget funding comes just weeks after the Government was slammed in a report for failing to make a dent in rates of the disease, especially among Maori and Pacific Island communities.

“The Ministry of Health-commissioned report raised serious questions about the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of National’s school throat swabbing programme.

“Despite that the Government appears hell-bent on continuing down the same narrowly-focused throat-swabbing pathway, with another $11.25 million going towards drop-in centres.

“The same report noted that not being able to access primary health care was a contributing factor to our shameful rates of rheumatic fever.

“Money would be far better spent on improving access to affordable primary health care, where not just rheumatic fever but other illnesses of poverty, like respiratory diseases and skin infections, would also be picked up.

“That in turn would stem the record number of New Zealand kids being admitted to hospital with preventable diseases.

“It is interesting to note that the Government is also putting $3.4 million towards an Auckland-wide healthy home referral and advice service sounds.

“But what happens after the referral and advice? Unless the Government has had a sudden change of heart and fully supports Labour’s healthy homes guarantee - that requires all rental homes to be adequately insulated and heated – then, once again it is missing the point.”


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