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Ed Sheeran

Housing funds part of rheumatic fever drive
Photo: Waatea Image Database.

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Labour is promising to tackle rheumatic fever by a combination of health and housing policies.

Leader Jacinda Ardern says the prevalence of rheumatic fever is a national shame, and poverty and deprivation are factors in every case.

The disease, which is more prevalent in Māori and Pasifika children, can lead to lifelong heart damage, as well as swelling and pain in joints and skin, and increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Labour intends to extend the Healthy Homes initiative from 11 to all 20 DHBs at a cost of just under $10 million a year for four years, which will go towards the purchase of curtains, floor coverings, heaters, beds, bedding, mould kits and minor housing repairs.

Another $16 million will go to Tenancy Services to beef up its enforcement of rental accommodation standards, especially in high risk areas and communities.

A rheumatic fever register will be established to keep track of patients and ensure they get the car they need to control the illness.

Ms Ardern says people being tested for COVID-19 who fall into the high-risk groups for rheumatic fever will also be tested for the Streptococcus bacteria which can cause a throat infection that develops into rheumatic fever.

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