Families at risk of rheumatic fever prioritised for housing
Families at risk of rheumatic fever prioritised for state housing
Families with children at risk of rheumatic fever will be fast-tracked to the top of the waiting list for state housing to reduce their risk of contracting the preventable disease, Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.
“This important change to the criteria for state housing will give priority to families at risk of rheumatic fever and help the Government achieve its health goal of a two-thirds reduction in incidence rates by 2017,” he says.
Dr Smith made the announcement at the new home of the Katoa family in Auckland whose 11 year old son Tristan contracted rheumatic heart disease. The family of 11 is moving into a home extended as part of Housing New Zealand’s Project 324&5.
“There is a strong link between housing conditions, particularly overcrowding, and rheumatic fever. Families to be prioritised will be those with urgent or serious housing needs, with one or more children who has been hospitalised for lower respiratory tract infections in their current housing over the past two years, and whose household suffers from overcrowding,” Dr Smith says.
“New Zealand’s rate of acute rheumatic fever is 14 times the OECD average and is 20 to 50 times more likely for Māori and Pacific children. The Government announced an additional $21.3 million in Budget 2013, bringing the total commitment to $45 million. This is part of the Government’s agreement with the Maori Party to reduce the incidence of the disease from 4.2 to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by 2017.
“Initiatives funded include the school-based throat swabbing programme, sore-throat drop-in clinics, an awareness campaign, research into a vaccine, and the Auckland-wide Healthy Homes referral and advice service.
“The change in the Social Allocation System comes into effect in Auckland on 1 October and is expected to fast-track about 100 families immediately. It will also have an on-going effect on new applicants, and subject to a successful evaluation, will be rolled out to other centres like Porirua next year.
“This change in criteria for state housing is just part of what Housing New Zealand is doing to support healthier families. We are adding 3,000 bedrooms onto 2,000 state houses through Project 324&5 to reduce overcrowding. We are introducing reviewable tenancies to ensure state houses are prioritised for those with the greatest need. We have also embarked on a massive insulation programme of all state houses that will be completed this year and are in the process of developing a housing warrant of fitness to be trialled on state houses.”