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Source: New Zealand Government

A five-year focus on tackling rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease has been announced by Associate Health Minister Barbara Edmonds. 

The Rheumatic Fever Roadmap 2023 – 2028 launched in Ōtara today will help prevent, identify and manage rheumatic fever across Aotearoa.

“Rheumatic fever is an entirely preventable disease. Māori and Pacific people, particularly our children and young people, bear the greatest burden of rheumatic fever which can cause debilitating heart disease,” Barbara Edmonds said.

“Our Pacific people make up 60 percent of overall rheumatic fever cases with Māori following at 37 percent. This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the population which represent three percent.

“Despite a decline in hospitalisations, latest data for Auckland indicates that overall rheumatic case numbers have been trending up again post-pandemic.  We know this is worrying for communities.

“Over the past decade a range of prevention programmes have focussed on sore throat management and access to care, healthy housing and raising awareness.

“Today’s announcement brings these together alongside new initiatives.  There will be a continued priority on those most at risk, and we also want to see their whānau gain better access to knowledge about prevention and management.

“Today’s roadmap outlines improved access and coordination of care, including the transition between paediatric and adult services, reducing barriers for patients, and supporting workforce development.

“Rheumatic fever prevention is complex and requires a comprehensive response.

“I want to acknowledge everyone across who helped develop the roadmap, from academics to health professionals, researchers and whānau who has shared their lived experience.

“Their input has ensured a strong patient, whānau and community focus,” Barbara Edmonds said.

Read the roadmap and find out more on the Te Whatu Ora website.