Tairawhiti District Health Board officials are going into schools in the Gisborne region in an effort to reduce cases of rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic fever develops from a sore throat and can lead to permanent heart damage.
A recent study by the University of Otago found many rural Maori in the region aren't getting antibiotics to treat rheumatic fever, largely because they live in isolated communities.
Clinics are being set up in schools to take swabs from children and nurses are being given the power to prescribe antibiotics to children with sore throats without them having to see a doctor.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Geoff Crampton says 44 patients are being treated for the illness, but he believes more will be found to have the disease.
Tairawhiti District Health says the swabbing programming will be paid for from a pool of $12 million provided the Government provided in the last Budget to reduce rates of rheumatic fever in more vulnerable communities.