The Heart Foundation welcomes this week’s announcement by the Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa that the Government’s Wellbeing Budget will include $12 million to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever amongst Maori and Pacific people.
Heart Foundation medical director Gerry Devlin says rheumatic fever is a serious condition that can lead to rheumatic heart disease.
"It is a disease that affects New Zealand's most vulnerable communities and we applaud every effort to eradicate it,” he says.
"Rheumatic fever is an entirely preventable childhood infection, caused by the body's immune response to a streptococcal infection of the throat.
“It can affect the joints and heart valves and lead to long-term heart damage requiring surgery.
“It often occurs alongside other childhood diseases including chest and skin infections, which are often associated with social deprivation.”
Gerry says a collaborative approach involving Government and health agencies is needed to eradicate it.
According to Ministry of Health figures, there were 171 recorded cases of rheumatic fever in 2018, two thirds of whom were aged under 14 years.1
Rheumatic fever presents a serious health burden not only to the person who has it but also to their family and the wider health system.
“The Heart Foundation is also funding important research into the development of a vaccine which could potentially protect our most at-risk children.
“Prevention of Acute Rheumatic Fever is a national health priority in New Zealand where rates are much higher than other developing countries, particularly in Māori and Pacific children.”
Heart disease at a glance:
• Heart disease is New Zealand’s single biggest killer, claiming the lives of more than 6,300 New Zealanders every year – that’s one person every 90 minutes.
• More than 180,000 New Zealander’s are currently living with heart disease.
• The Heart Foundation funds cutting-edge research and specialist training for cardiologists, while our education and prevention programmes address heart disease head-on in the community.
• The Heart Foundation is New Zealand’s heart charity that is leading the fight against heart disease.
• We rely heavily on the generosity of everyday Kiwis to support our life-saving work.