Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia visited Kaitaia on Thursday to launch a major expansion to a programme preventing rheumatic fever in the Far North.
Regular throat-swabbing of children with sore throats have found 250 cases of Strep-A in the past year - that could have triggered rheumatic fever and heart disease - but were treated with antibiotics.
Lance O'Sullivan, who led the prevention campaign in the region, says extra government funding has allowed the expansion of the programme into another six schools covering 2000 children in the Kaitaia area.
He says the throat-swabbing in the classroom is picking up sore throats that even parents don't get to hear about - that could have led to a lifetime of suffering - if they'd been left untreated.
He says one of his own children was swabbed five times - and he only knew on two of those occasions that she had a sore throat.
Dr O'Sullivan estimates the programme has prevented up to four cases of rheumatic fever in the last year in Kaitaia alone.