Clinics to target rheumatic fever

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 13:10 06/05/2013

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Porirua

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Free sore throat drop-in clinics will be opened in Porirua for families with children at risk of developing rheumatic fever.

The community clinics will be funded out of a fresh batch of money announced by Health Minister Tony Ryall, who said the $21.3 million over four years almost doubles a $24m investment made as part of an agreement with the Maori party to combat the disease.

''This is coming from the new money that will be announced in the Budget.''

He would not be drawn on whether health would be a big winner in the Budget to be announced on May 16.

The Government hopes to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two thirds by June 2017. It is caused by a streptococcus A infection. Left untreated, sufferers have to endure 10 years of painful penicillin injections and possibly heart surgery.

A $4.72m awareness campaign and $1.6 million for vaccine research would also be funded from the additional money.

A $3.75m healthy housing scheme in Auckland would also be funded, Mr Ryall said at Porirua Union Health this morning. 

The biggest chunk - $11 million - would be spent on running drop-in clinics in Porirua and Auckland for families whose children go to schools that are not part of the sore throat swabbing scheme. 

The drop-in clinics will also be open during the school holidays.

Public health nurses carry out throat swabbing at 12 Porirua primary schools.Since the first schools came on board 18 months ago, there had been no new cases of rheumatic fever among these pupils, regional public health nurse Chris Campbell said.Though it was early days, Mrs Campbell said this was a ''triumph''.

However, cases were still occurring among children and teenagers outside these schools, she said. 

Nurses around the country are carrying out throat swabbing at nearly 200 schools. 

Pupils with sore throats are swabbed and if streptococcus A is detected, a nurse delivers antibiotics to the family home at no cost.

Mr Ryall said a $3.75m bundle of money for an Auckland wide healthy homes referral and advice service could be extended to other areas.

Overcrowded and damp living conditions contribute to high rates of rheumatic fever, which is more prevalent in low-socio economic areas. 

Mr Ryall said all state houses in Porirua will be insulated by the end of this year.

Porirua Union Health GP registrar Dougal Thorburn said the boost in funding was good, but the social determinants of health, including bad housing and poor nutrition, had to be addressed to prevent rheumatic fever.

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A ''whole-of Government'' approach was needed to address these social determinants in conjunction with targeted health programmes, he said.

Contact Bronwyn Torrie
Health reporter
Email: bronwyn.torrie@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @brontorrie

- The Dominion Post

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