10 May 2012

GP says rheumatic fever funding much needed

10:01 am on 10 May 2012

A Kaitaia Maori GP says an extra $12 million in the Budget for rheumatic fever prevention is welcome, but as long as children have to scavenge for food it will never be a magic bullet.

The Government is funding a new throat-swabbing programme in schools in seven regions, including Porirua, to detect the infection that can cause serious heart damage.

Lance O'Sullivan led a recent campaign to screen Kaitaia children for heart damage, and introduce throat swabbing to detect rheumatic fever in Far North schools.

He says families crowded into cold damp homes, without nourishing food will always be vulnerable to infectious diseases.

Dr O'Sullivan says he's heard recently of children going through the pig-bucket of a Kaitaia business to feed themselves.

He says the business owners at first thought the children were hanging around to steal something, but then realised they were looking for scraps to eat.

He says rheumatic fever is able to get a grip in Maori and Pacifika communities because of poor living conditions and nutrition.

Dr O'Sullivan says the budget funding boost shows the Government is listening to calls to end a serious health inequality and Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia needs to be recognised for making sure the issue is at the forefront of people's minds.