The Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme
Rheumatic fever is a serious but preventable illness that mainly affects Māori and Pacific children and young people (aged between 4 and 19 years). It starts with a sore throat known as ‘strep throat’ – a throat infection caused by bacteria called Group A Streptococcus. Most sore throats get better on their own, but if strep throat is not treated with antibiotics it can sometimes turn into rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever makes the heart, joints, brain and skin swollen and painful. The symptoms may disappear on their own, but the inflammation can cause life-threatening rheumatic heart disease.
The Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme is led by the Ministry of Health. The programme includes healthy home initiatives where families with children at risk of rheumatic fever are identified, their houses assessed and improvements are made where needed. Housing New Zealand works with the Ministry of Health to deliver this initiative. Since January 2014, 875 Housing New Zealand families have been successfully referred to the Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme healthy home initiative and 1907 interventions have been carried out across more than 750 houses.
Families with children at risk of rheumatic fever who meet certain criteria are referred to Housing New Zealand for help.
A joint inspection of the home is carried out by a Housing New Zealand tenancy and asset manager. They will provide advice, assess for crowding and recommend improvements where needed. Work can include improving ventilation, heating and insulation, installing carpet and/or curtains, and upgrading bathrooms.