NRT: National’s failure on rheumatic fever

Written By: - Date published: 10:46 am, July 4th, 2017 - 22 comments
Categories: health, national - Tags: , , , ,

I/S at No Right Turn writes

National’s failure on rheumatic fever

Five years ago, National set itself a target as part of its “Better Public Services” targets to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds. They failed. And the reason is that they’re coming up against the limits set by their poor social policies:

The number of people dropping out of a rheumatic fever treatment programme raises further concerns about the Government’s high-profile goal of stamping out the disease, the Green Party says.


Counties Manukau DHB has one of highest rate of rheumatic fever cases. New figures released under the Official Information Act show that 58 of the 628 patients added to a rheumatic fever register in Counties Manukau in the past two years had fallen off their treatment plan.

The DHB said the main reasons for disengaging with their treatment were transience. Patients’ contact details were not known or they had left the region.

Transience means “people not having a stable place to live”. And its caused by low wages, high rents, and not enough state housing. The upshot is that reducing our appalling rate of rheumatic fever – a third world disease of poverty – means reducing those wider problems of poverty. But that’s not really what National is interested in: they want to sell state houses (to Aussie gulag operators), not build more. But until they do, they’re going to continue to fail to meet their target.

Which means they’ll probably try and quietly drop it. They’ve already halved funding and targetted it more tightly, in an obvious effort to make the stats look good. Which also shows the real problem behind their “Better Public Services” targets: they’re primarily a PR exercise, designed to enable the government to declare success and go home, rather than necessarily solve the underlying problems. And that’s not better government – its just the same old stat-juking bullshit we’ve come to expect from National.

22 comments on “NRT: National’s failure on rheumatic fever”

  1. Sacha 1

    Rheumatic fever stems from sub-standard housing. Any govt that believes Nick Smith is the answer to that problem will never solve it.

    • inspider 1.1

      No it doesn’t. Rheumatic fever is more complex than that. It is almost non existent in the south island, Taranaki and manawatu. Are you saying they don’t have housing issues?

      • adam 1.1.1

        No, no one has the same housing issues as Auckland.

        No other city has the overcrowding like Auckland.

        No other city is over priced like Auckland.

        • inspider

          So why is the rate in gisborne worse than Auckland? Why the rate in northland and south Waikato worse than west Auckland?

          • Grafton Gully

            Because Maori/Polynesion ethnicity is a high risk factor (even among less deprived children)

            “The likelihood of ARF development varied considerably by age, ethnicity and deprivation strata: while risk was greatest in Māori and Pacific children aged 10-14 years residing in the most extreme deprivation, both of these ethnic groups experienced elevated risk across a wide age range and across deprivation levels.”


  2. garibaldi 2

    This is yet another goal set by our “aspirational” govt with absolutely no hope of achieving it ,nor showing the desire to actually achieve it, because of their antisocial policies. Shame on their disingenuousness.

  3. McFlock 3

    This depresses me profoundly.

    • inspider 3.1

      You must have been near suicidal under labour then, when the rate climbed from under 3 per 100k to nearly four per 100k at the end of 2008.

      This is a major success no matter what party you support. RF rates are down to a level not seen since 2002.

      • McFlock 3.1.1

        4/100k down to 2.4 suggests something was being done right. Going back up to 3.4 again means that either the “success” was an illusion or something’s gone wrong with the program.

        That’s what depresses me. Without even checking your figures. Some of our poorest kids are impacted severely by this illness. We might have been getting a handle on it, or we might not, but either way we’ve done nothing really of note for… what, 15 years by your count? And now the attempt is slowly being allowed to wither.

        • inspider

          Id look at it like the road toll. Some years are worse than the one before for inwxplicable reasons but the trend is the one to focus on. The rates are quite low so you could get an outbreak in a couple of families that could shift data quite strongly. More to do but going in the right direction over time

          • McFlock

            The data from your esr.cri link seems to be a lot less lumpy than that. There’s a pretty damned good dip 2013-2015, full credit, but for it to be back up to 3.4 by now is well beyond the 2002-12 regular bounce. Difficult to conclude without more lines and whiskers on the chart, but it depresses me.

            • inspider

              It’s not at 3.4 it’s 2.6 according to esr December data

              • McFlock

                And according to the press report the current rate is 3.4.
                Wouldn’t be the first time someone failed to spot a convenient number typo, but I’m nor sure ESR is looking at the same time period as the news report. And they’re not the only ones who can crunch admissions data.

                • inspider

                  Looks like the press report is wrong. It doesnt even get the SSC number right (which I note disagrees with the cri data).

                  • McFlock


                    edit: ah, gotcha.
                    But that is also end of year 2016, and as you point out doesn’t match the cri data, so if the greens are talking june they might be right. Or wrong.

                    Not sure.

  4. tc 4

    Its no surprise these 3rd world ailments are growing.

    Nationals brighter future and a very accurate indicator of what they are really about all in one.

    Nearly a decade of wilful neglect on our most vulnerable its as abhorrent as it is depressing.

    • inspider 4.1

      They are not growing. They are at their lowest rate since 2002. Check the ESR public health surveillance reports at

      • McFlock 4.1.1

        That site seems to have a calendar dec 2016 cutoff.
        When do they release the rates for June, when it was supposed to be 1.4/100k?

  5. Stunned Mullet 5

    I would be interested to see some data tracking the initiation of the program discouraging the use of antibiotics and the incidence of strep throat and rheumatic fever.

    Seems to have been a number of mixed messages coming out of Ministry of Health’s PR arm over the last 10-15 years.

  6. Ad 6

    It’s awesome that Prime Minister English has launched his Social investment Agency. After all, you treasure what you measure right?

    Except nah.

    The purpose of good government is to fix things, the right things, at the optimum moment. So far I see more agencies being formed, but there’s more data flowing and more privacy lost, but no sense of causal responsibility from the state about how much they themselves impact the entire social framework that bears upon actual people.

    Feels like just another ambulance at the bottom of the cliff trying to catch an elephant in a handkerchief.

    • weka 6.1

      Nice metaphor. I’d go further and add something about intention to herd people off the cliff because they’ve got investments in the ambulance company. Probably the herding being arranged with the help of a PR company so from a distance it looks like a nice sea vista.

  7. Ian 7

    I spent 3 months in cook hospital gisborne with rheumatic fever when I was 4 years old. There was a ward full of us.The gains made over the last 50 years in reducing this disease are amazing.
    Many of the commenters here have no understanding of history and the progress made over the years.
    I know what real poverty and poor living conditions look like , but thats another story.

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