Labour targets rheumatic fever with new Healthy Homes pledge

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The Labour Party is promising to kit out more homes with insulation, heaters and bedding if re-elected, saying the prevalence of rheumatic fever in New Zealand is a “national shame”.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The party has pledged to pump an extra $39 million over four years into the Healthy Homes initiative, which has been running since late 2013.

The scheme assesses homes in at-risk areas and co-ordinates support to make them warmer and drier.

The funding would expand the initiative from 11 DHBs to all 20. Labour would also roll out more rental inspectors to ensure landlords are meeting required standards – at a cost of $16 million.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said rheumatic fever was a disease that should not exist in New Zealand.

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

“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. The problem is much worse for Māori and Pasifika children.”

She said Labour wanted the disease to “vanish”.

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