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Rheumatic fever swabbing won’t fix damp and crowded homes


Health Spokesperson
Rheumatic fever swabbing won’t fix damp and crowded homes

The Government is throwing money at the bottom of the cliff by swabbing children’s sore throats for rheumatic fever without addressing the causes of the disease, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

“Detecting and treating rheumatic fever is important. But it fails to address the fact that many children develop rheumatic fever because they live in damp and overcrowded houses,” Annette King today told the Medical Council conference in Rotorua today.

“Failing to address the causes means more children are destined to get this preventable disease. What is needed is less grandstanding about money spent by the Government and more on action on prevention.

“According to the ESR’s Public Health Surveillance, cases of rheumatic fever rose by 25 per cent in a year: from 164 in 2012 to 205 last year.

“The Government must start addressing the causes of poverty. The 285,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand are at risk of developing rheumatic fever and suffering the permanent and ongoing health problems it causes such as heart disease.

“Health inequality is one of the big issues facing our country. Research and evidence collected in New Zealand shows health inequalities must be addressed if we are to improve the health of Kiwis. This is one of Labour’s priorities for this year’s election.

“While throat swabbing picks up some cases, not all children with rheumatic fever remember having a sore throat. This has led community paediatrician Nikki Blair to this week call for greater use of ultrasound scans to detect complications caused by the disease.

“While agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development – which now manages state house applications – realise the contribution poor housing makes, the Government has cloth ears to any message about poverty and refuses to even measure it.

“The Government wants to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds by 2017. This will not happen until poverty in this country is addressed,” Annette King says.

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