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More children protected from preventable diseases

Hon Tony Ryall

Minister of Health

20 February 2014       Media Statement       

More children protected from preventable diseases

Better Public Services results released today show more New Zealand children are being protected from preventable diseases.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said increasing immunisation rates and reducing rheumatic fever are included in the Government’s 10 priority Better Public Results, and also contribute to the drive to support vulnerable children.

“Latest results show 91 per cent of eight-month-old babies have received their vaccinations. We are making good progress towards reaching the Better Public Services target of 95 per cent by December this year,” says Mr Ryall.

“Getting babies fully immunised by eight months provides greatly increased protection from diseases like whooping cough – we’ve seen how important that is in the recent whooping cough outbreak.

“Delivering in-home immunisation to babies is just one of the ways services are being delivered to better protect infants and support parents to make this decision.

“New Zealand has gone from having one of the lowest immunisation rates in the world to levels that are comparable with other OECD countries, including Australia.

“Agencies, health professionals and communities are also working together in new and innovative ways to tackle rheumatic fever, with a Better Public Services target of reducing rates by two thirds by June 2017.

“One example is the Auckland-wide Healthy Homes Initiative (AWHI), which helps families address housing conditions, particularly living in crowded homes, a contributing factor for rheumatic fever.

“This term schools across the North Island will hit the goal of having over 50,000 children able to access throat checking services for free at their schools, a programme that works alongside free throat checking drop-in clinics in high risk areas and face-to-face contact with at-risk families in their homes and communities to raise awareness about this disease

“It’s pleasing to see progress is being made on immunisation and rheumatic fever, but we know there is more work to do. A significant reduction in rheumatic fever rates will likely take time.

“The increasing profile of rheumatic fever is raising awareness across the health system too. International experience would suggest that identification of rheumatic fever cases will increase in the short term, particularly with more cases being treated in hospitals as the programme rolls-out.

“The $45 million in Government funding however ensures the programme has the support it needs to tackle this disease,” said Mr Ryall.

ENDS

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