Tide turning in war on rheumatic fever

31 July 2017

From The Gisborne Herald

Tairāwhiti is winning the battle against rheumatic fever, with only one patient hospitalised with the illness in the past year.

Rheumatic fever has been a significant health issue for the district, which recorded the highest incidence rate of first-time rheumatic fever hospitalisations in the country as recently in the 2014-2015 year — 14.8 per 100,000 people.

Hauora Tairawhiti chief executive Jim Green told health board members the work of many health providers needed to be acknowledged in their campaign against rheumatic fever.

The Tairawhiti Rheumatic Fever Programme was about reducing the number of people hospitalised with the illness, he said.

“It’s about preventing or intervening in the spread of this deadly disease, which has long-term serious health issues and in some cases heart surgery and/or death”.

The only case recorded in the 2016-2017 year to June 30 was in the first quarter. Rehette Stoltz said she wanted to offer a “‘big shout out” to GPs who were ‘‘so proactive”.

She had taken two children with strep throat to their GP centre.

“You see a nurse and don’t have to make an appointment.”

Mr Green said the achievement “has required great vigilance and effort on the part of all those involved.’’

The health providers responsible include “in particular, our primary care services with their rapid response clinics and their continued responsiveness to sore throats”.

Other providers included:

  • Well Child public health nurses who administer the antibiotic Bicillin project with a total of 49 people on their register.
  • The Healthy Homes provider services in conjunction with Housing NZ and Ministry of Social Development Social Housing Assessment team.

Mr Green said there should be a special mention of the one-off Health-funded Rheumatic Fever Maori Community Innovation projects.

Funding allowed organisations involved to support at-risk whanau and young people.

Those organisations included Kapai Kaiti, E Tu Elgin, Te Atawhai Rugby League and Maori Hockey Association.

They used the fund to spread messages about sore throats and healthy homes through a wide range of activities such as including making videos, promotion at sports tournaments, surveys, whanau days and fridge magnets.

“We encourage everyone to continue to monitor their families, and especially their children’s winter coughs and colds," Mr Green said.

“If in doubt, check it out!”