A Kaitaia GP says the rates of rheumatic heart disease among children in some New Zealand communities are similar to those in the Third World.
Lance O'Sullivan says he expects a screening programme starting in the Far North next week will turn up at least 20 new cases of undiagnosed heart disease among Maori children.
"The rates we see of rheumatic heart disease among our communities are rates that you see in third world and developing countries.
"We have currently 36 children on our register up here that are on the programme for treatment for rheumatic fever - 35 are Maori."
Mr O'Sullivan says a team from Greenlane Paediatric Services will test 600 children.
He says similar scanning programmes in South Auckland, Bay of Plenty and the Gisborne region have identified heart damage caused by bouts of rheumatic fever, which is associated with over-crowded and poor quality housing.