Oral Presentation 20th Lancefield International Symposium on Streptococci and Streptococcal Diseases 2017

Reducing rheumatic fever in New Zealand through a multi-faceted, comprehensive prevention programme (#55)

Niki Stefanogiannis 1
  1. New Zealand Ministry of Health, Thorndon, WELLINGTON, New Zealand

Māori and Pacific people living in New Zealand experience high rates of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic fever is a preventable condition that results from an autoimmune response to a Group A streptococcal throat infection. The New Zealand Government committed to tackling this inequity and reducing the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds by 2017.

To achieve the target the Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme delivered a range of initiatives using three key strategies:

  • Increasing awareness of rheumatic fever, what causes it and how to prevent it
  • Improving access to timely, effective treatment for group A streptococcal sore throat in primary care and community settings
  • Reducing household transmission of group A streptococcal bacteria

Since the beginning of the programme, there has been a 23 percent decrease in first episode rheumatic fever hospitalisations. There has been an almost 50% decrease among Māori but more work needs to be done to reduce rheumatic fever among Pacific people.

Although the target has not been reached, the Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme has had a wider positive impact as a change programme and as an exemplar in relation to integrating primordial and primary prevention activities across government departments through to communities. This presentation will include an overview of the complex, multi-faceted rheumatic fever prevention programme and its successes. Lessons learned from the implementation of this programme will be shared in order to aid the reduction of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in the Pacific.