Healthy homes and hearts in rheumatic fever initiative

  • Expand the Healthy Homes initiative for housing basics like heaters, curtains, bedding and floor covering
  • Strengthen healthy home compliance and enforcement efforts by Tenancy Services 
  • A national register to actively track and treat rheumatic fever patients

Healthy homes, healthy children and healthy hearts are the focus of a new policy designed to drive down our rates of rheumatic fever.

Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern says the prevalence of rheumatic fever is a national shame. 

“Rheumatic fever is a disease we should not have in New Zealand,” said Jacinda Ardern.

“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.  

“We all know that poverty and deprivation are factors in the 160 new cases we have on average each year in New Zealand. We will invest an additional $55 million over four years to tackle the root causes of rheumatic fever through our health and housing agencies.

“The Healthy Homes initiative operates across eleven DHBs with the highest rates of rheumatic fever. Labour will expand it to the remaining nine DHBs. We will increase support for the purchase of curtains, floor coverings, heaters, beds, bedding, mould kits and minor housing repairs, at a total cost of $39 million over four years.

“We will beef up the ability of Tenancy Services compliance and enforcement teams to ensure rental accommodation meets standards. An additional $16 million over four years will allow these inspectors from MBIE to proactively target high risk areas and communities.

“In our previously announced Health policy we also confirmed plans to establish a rheumatic fever register. A national register will help keep track of patients and ensure they get regular reminders of appointments and the follow up medication they need to control the illness. 

“Labour will also ensure that people being tested for COVID-19 who fall into the high-risk groups for rheumatic fever are also tested for Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria – which can cause a throat infection that develops into rheumatic fever.

“We want this disease to vanish from New Zealand,” said Jacinda Ardern. 


Fact sheet