Election 2020: Labour’s plan to end rheumatic fever – New Zealand’s ‘national shame’

Election 2020: Labour’s plan to end rheumatic fever – New Zealand’s ‘national shame’

Labour wants rheumatic fever to “vanish from New Zealand,” and has promised to expand the Healthy Homes initiative to help rid the country of the illness.

“Rheumatic fever is a disease we should not have in New Zealand,” Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said, adding there are roughly 160 rheumatic fever hospitalisations a year.

This is New Zealand’s “national shame,” she said.

Ardern has promised to pour more money into efforts to eliminate the illness – an extra $55 million over four years on a number of initiatives.


The lion’s share of that, $39m, will go towards bolstering the Healthy Homes initiative – a policy implemented by the then-National Government in 2013.

Those standards set minimum heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage standards across the country.

At the moment, the scheme operates across 11 DHBs with the highest rates of rheumatic fever.

Labour has promised to expand it to the remaining nine DHBs and will increase support for the purchase of curtains, floor coverings, heaters, beds, bedding, mould kits and minor housing repairs.

According to researching unit Branz, 22 per cent of New Zealand rental homes have no fixed heating. That figure is 7 per cent when it comes to owner-occupied properties.

“It is unacceptable that poor-quality housing is causing lifelong heart damage, as well as swelling and pain in joints and skin, and increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illness,” Ardern said.

She added that the problem is much worse for Māori and Pasifika children.

Subscribe to Premium

“We want this disease to vanish from New Zealand.”


The remaining $16m will be put towards beefing up Tenancy Services compliance and enforcement teams to ensure rental accommodation meets standards.

That funding, also split up over four years, allows inspectors to target high-risk areas sand communities.

“While good progress has been made to tackle the conditions that lead to ‘strep throat’ and consequential rheumatic fever, we need to keep up the momentum,” Ardern said.

“We will drive greater resources into efforts to eliminate this illness and protect our most vulnerable communities.”

Published at Sat, 03 Oct 2020 23:00:00 +0000

%d bloggers like this: