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A talented team tackles rheumatic fever

Vicky Henry, Savaira Vuidreketi and Melissa Epiha from Raukura Hauora O Tainui and K’aute Pasifka at the National Maori Netball Tournament over the Easter weekend. 

It was more than just bells and whistles on Easter Saturday at the Maori National Netball Tournament, with Raukura Hauora O Tainui and K’aute Pasifka teaming up to promote rheumatic fever prevention.

The two organisations held competitions and quizzes over the three day tournament which hosted more than 100 teams at Hamilton’s Minogue Park.

Melissa Epiha from Raukura Hauora O Tainui said it was the first time they had teamed up with K’aute.

“We really got to walk the walk and talk the talk together. In the past we have had two tents and it has felt like we were separate, but this way we were one community with one message,” she said.

“Working together really helped keep our messaging consistent and we could help each other break through some of the barriers for both our communities.”

K’aute Pasifka’s general manager Kim Holt said it was exciting to have the opportunity to work together with Raukura Hauora O Tainui.

“Raukura Hauora O Tainui and K’aute Pasifika have similar values, with our shared goal of improving the health and wellbeing of our communities. “

Epiha said they had over 100 people complete the survey which tested people’s knowledge of how rheumatic fever is caused and how you can prevent it.

Tainui Waka U13s car jamming in Ruakura car for the chance to win some prizes at the tournament.

Tainui Waka U13s car jamming in Ruakura car for the chance to win some prizes at the tournament.

“As a result we had some good conversations with care-givers and got to hear about what support was in their community.”

This promotional event was the first of more than ten which will happen between now and the end of the winter campaign which kicks off on May 1.

Rheumatic fever rates have halved in the Waikato since the health board launched its community-led prevention programme last April.

New figures show rates have dropped from 16 new cases in 2014 to eight in 2015.

Ministry funded campaigns were launched across New Zealand as part of a national drive to reduce the number of children diagnosed with the debilitating condition.

Of the 300 sore throat swabbing services launched nationwide, Waikato DHB offers 174 through local pharmacies, pathlabs, general practice and some high school clinics as a free service for high-risk populations. Since the swabbing services began last year, almost 6000 children have received free swabbing services and been given important messages that all sore throats need to be checked to help prevent rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic fever is caused by group A streptococcus – a simple throat infection. If not treated approximately 3 per cent of strep patients could develop rheumatic fever which can lead to irreversible heart damage. In the Waikato the disease disproportionately affects Maori and Pacific children.

In NZ, 98 people were hospitalised for the first time with rheumatic fever in 2015, compared with 177 hospitalisations in 2012 – that’s a 45 per cent reduction.

Rates for Māori have more than halved since 2012 – down 54 per cent. There has also been a drop of 27 per cent for Pacific people. More than half the national reduction was in Northland and Counties Manukau DHBs.


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