Kids at risk of strep-throat rise

Last updated 10:01 24/12/2013

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A national throat-swabbing campaign has identified nearly 50,000 children at risk of getting strep-throat, which can lead to rheumatic fever, a Health Ministry report says.

Health Minister Tony Ryall's report into implementing the New Zealand Health Strategy was released today, reporting on district health boards' and the Ministry of Health's success in meeting national health targets.

As of November 28, there were 48,830 at-risk children in more than 200 schools covered by the school-based throat swabbing programme, the report said.

As part of the programme, children who had sore throats were able to have a swab and be tested for strep throat, and were given antibiotics if needed.

The programme targets communities in areas with the highest incidence of rheumatic fever - an illness commonly associated with poverty and poor housing.

Those communities were in areas covered by DHBs including Northland, Auckland region, Wellington region, Waikato, Lakes District, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti and Hawke's Bay.

The national target is to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds, to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people, by June 2017.

It is expected by early next year, more than 50,000 children nationwide will be taking part in the programme.

Last month, a cross-parliamentary report was released by the health select committee, after an inquiry was held into improving children's health outcomes, particularly in their first three years.

More than 130 recommendations were made, including the implementation of a new national health target to ensure all pregnant women were signed up to a maternity care provider by their 10th week of pregnancy.

Ryall is yet to deliver his response to the report, but said in today's publication that much was already being done in that area.

"To further support timely enrolment of newborns, the ministry will soon publish a resource for general practice teams to help them address barriers not addressed by the Preliminary Newborn Enrolment Policy," the report said.

Ryall said there was more to be done across all areas of health.

"Like almost all health services across the world, we are facing major challenges - financial, demographic and patient expectations."

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