13 Nov 2013

Maori health provider says sector 'normalised' to rheumatic fever

7:57 pm on 13 November 2013

A national Maori health service provider says it's surprised by remarks made by the Ministry of Health's departing director-general that he was shocked to find rheumatic fever existed in New Zealand.

Te Hotu Manawa Maori says his comments show the disease has become normalised in Aotearoa and the health sector and society should hang their heads in shame.

Rheumatic fever is widespread among Maori and Pacific children and young adults and it can result in rheumatic heart disease and premature death.

The disease is often caused by poverty and overcrowded living conditions and more commonly associated with Third World countries.

Kevin Woods is returning to Scotland after three years in the job and says he had not encountered rheumatic fever in his former work there.

Te Hotu Manawa Maori managing director Leonie Matoe says it surprised her that someone who has travelled and participated in health systems around the world could be shocked by New Zealand's rates.

Miss Matoe says there's an assumption that when the sector compares itself against the rest of the world Aotearoa would be achieving the same or a better standard of health.

She says while there have been pockets of success, such as in Northland, where the Primary Health Organisation and the work of Dr Lance O'Sullivan have made a big dent, their efforts need to be repeated throughout the rest of the country.