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Shocking rheumatic fever rates

CPAG spokesperson Professor Innes Asher says that “it is shocking that every week new children are admitted to hospital in New Zealand with this preventable disease which can permanently damage a child’s heart, whereas it is virtually unknown in comparable countries like Canada and the UK.”

The New Zealand Medical Journal has just reported on a study carried out in Northland revealing third-world rates of acute rheumatic fever amongst children.

This preventable disease is associated with poverty, poor access to health care and household crowding, and is an important cause of disability and premature death.

Acute rheumatic fever is now rare in most developed countries, but New Zealand it is relatively common.
 
CPAG spokesperson Professor Innes Asher says that “it is shocking that every week new children are admitted to hospital in New Zealand with this preventable disease which can permanently damage a child’s heart, whereas it is virtually unknown in comparable countries like Canada and the UK.”
 
There are high levels of socioeconomic deprivation, unemployment and one-parent families in Northland.  The rates of acute rheumatic fever there are amongst the highest in New Zealand, and disproportionately impact on Māori children.  Of 114 confirmed cases of acute rheumatic fever, 95% were Maori children, and 63 of these children resided in the most deprived decile.
 
In other parts of NZ, such as Counties Manukau, Pasifika children suffer even higher rates of rheumatic fever.
 
CPAG spokesperson Dr Nikki Turner said “The children in these families are clearly disadvantaged through growing up in poverty and this has lifetime consequences.”
 
Dr Turner said “The solution is equally clear.  Families must have access to adequate income, decent housing and primary care services if they are to protect their children from diseases associated with poverty.”
 
Professor Asher insists that “more is required to address rheumatic fever than the school sore throats programme already underway and funding of the development of a future vaccine.  The underlying causes must also be addressed boldly.”