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Minister to address international cardiology conference

Hon Tariana Turia

Associate Minister of Health

Monday 5 May 2014 MEDIA RELEASE

Minister to address major international cardiology conference on rheumatic fever and tobacco reform

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia is this week joining a group of leading international experts to talk about rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease and tobacco reform at a major international cardiology conference in Melbourne.

Mrs Turia – a staunch proponent for stamping out rheumatic fever in New Zealand – has been invited to speak at the World Heart Federation World Congress of Cardiology session Taking on Rheumatic Heart Disease: the roles of public and private sectors.

Her speech will focus on equity and building political will for rheumatic fever prevention in New Zealand.

“The Government has recognised the urgent need to tackle rheumatic fever in our most vulnerable communities and has invested more than $65 million to do so,” says Mrs Turia.

“I’m very pleased to be able to share some of my experiences around this important issue at such a prestigious conference.

“Rheumatic fever is a serious but preventable disease that can have serious consequences for children during childhood and throughout their lifetime. A simple sore throat can lead to permanent heart damage.

“In New Zealand, this disease predominantly affects Māori and Pacific children, at unacceptable rates.

“We’re addressing those rates head-on, with the extra Government investment and the Better Public Services target to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by June 2017.

Minister Turia is also addressing the conference on tobacco control and the measures undertaken by the New Zealand Government to reach a smoke-free nation by 2025.

“One of the key milestones in the Relationship Accord signed between the Māori Party and the National Party was to advance tobacco reform.

“Along with the introduction of plain packaging, increases in tobacco excise, the removal of tobacco displays from shops, supporting innovative efforts to reduce the harm and wider costs of smoking we are also beginning to look at the anomaly of duty free tobacco.

“We’ve started to see some return for our vision – in the 2013 Census, 15% of New Zealand adults smoke (463,000 people) – a massive drop from 598,000 at the last census in 2006.

“Even more encouraging is the fact that smoking prevalence among Māori has dropped from 42.2% in the 2006 Census to 32.7% in 2013.

“These results are heartening but we cannot afford to be complacent. We must continue to do all that we can to rid this killer product from our lives,” says Mrs Turia.

Information about Rheumatic Fever

• Rheumatic fever is caused by a reaction to a Group A Streptococcus bacterial throat infection (strep throat). Vigilance is the key to prevention.

• If a child gets strep throat, he or she needs to be treated with a 10-day course of antibiotics to prevent rheumatic fever developing.

• Rheumatic Heart Disease is the most common form of heart disease in children and young people. It develops from rheumatic fever.

• People with rheumatic heart disease may need heart valve replacement surgery, and it can cause premature death in adults.

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