A Treaty of Waitangi negotiator has helped change the way kids exercise by creating unique guided heritage trails along Gisborne’s rivers and beaches.
Known as heritage trails, the Turanga Health-inspired guided walks and runs weave Māori and European history into bite-sized chunks for kids while they exercise. The trails have taken one school by storm and are now being adopted by others.
“Our kids are hooked on it,” says Ilminster Intermediate principal Peter Ferris, who incorporates the interactive historical lesson into the school’s new PE curriculum.
“Story telling makes the how, the who, and the when, exciting and relevant to today’s kids. And they are learning it all in fresh air, not off a device or a screen.”
Rongowhakaata historian, and heritage consultant Jody Wyllie created the heritage trails for Turanga Health last year. Mr Wyllie is a Treaty of Waitangi negotiator and Transit of Venus researcher. He says many people don’t know or appreciate the region’s history.
“It’s important our kids learn how we went from there being no one here, to there being many of us here, and also some of what happened in between! You know this place is really important – New Zealand was born here.”
Mr Wyllie created three heritage trail routes: Titirangi (Kaiti Hill), the three rivers, and the beach front. He’s spent hours passing on his years of historical research to six Turanga Health kaiāwhina who lead the guided walks. Stories of the original Māori ancestors Kiwa and Pāoa are combined with the history of meeting houses, Cook’s arrival, and European settlement.
Mr Wyllie say’s the district’s history is challenging for some, and confusing for others. The trail dialogue isn’t intended as a definitive history but many of the local stories are presented warts and all.
“Using the trails, schools can take a more balanced warts and all approach to teaching students about early navigation, colonialism, and the struggles of early settlement. I know not everyone agrees but I would much rather do it that way. Better to have a debate about what happened in the past and to realise that we have moved on as a country.”
The six Turanga Health heritage trail guides are Paora Anderson, Albert Tibble, Shane Luke, Hotorene Brown, Jesse Halbert, and Daiminn Kemp. Excited to be given the chance to exercise and present history at the same time they take their new roles seriously. They’ve learned the content, honed their delivery, and taken practice heritage trails while fellow staff and Mr Wyllie provide feedback.
Guide Albert Tibble says it’s been a privilege and an honour to bring the stories of bygone days to life. But it’s also been a challenge. “Jody has been generous and helpful in his training and feedback. I want to captivate the kids with knowledge, history, and a story and I want it to flow naturally, but at the same time I have to be aware of everyone’s fitness!”
Trails are led according to each group’s fitness. Some are walking trails only, while others include jogging, stair shuttle runs and strength exercises along the way.
Turanga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha says the feedback from Ilminster has encouraged other schools including Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boys High School to use the trails.
“The Heritage Trails are a walking or running series that combines fitness with our local historic treasures. Walkers can cover around two to four kilometers so it’s a unique opportunity for participants to get fit in a beautiful place and connect to history at the same time.”
If there’s ever an emergency situation at Gisborne’s Cedenco Foods, factory worker Kody Te Hau is one of an elite team of staff trained in emergency response and containment. Wearing a protective suit and breathing apparatus Kody and Rescue Squad colleagues will locate and isolate the source of the leak.
Rescue Squad staff do physical training every two weeks - running, climbing and practicing emergency response drills in their cumbersome hazmat suits. It’s hard work, and Kody has an extra disadvantage... he’s a smoker.
“We do lots of heavy lifting, and carrying people, and I’d be sucking up oxygen, lots of oxygen, and breathing heavily,” says Kody of the training.
So when Cedenco offered an on-site quit smoking programme run by Turanga Health Kody, 29, jumped at the chance to quit his disabling 15-year habit. His work mates needed to be able to count on him.
“I’ve a got a six-month old and a six-year-old. That’s my motivation. But it was the responsibility of being in the Rescue Squad too. I need to be in better shape if I’m in that role.”
Kody and colleagues Bobby-Joe Brown-Kaiwai and Tukaki Wanoa have just taken part in the largest quit smoking programme ever run at a Gisborne workplace. Fifty Cedenco Foods staff signed up to the 12-week challenge and just about everyone cut down their smoking. Seven quit for good.
“That’s the largest group we have ever worked with in one place,” says long time smoking cessation kaiāwhina Christine Nepia, who along with colleague Mere Waihi went to huge lengths to help the Cedenco staff.
“To make sure we saw as many staff as possible we were there at 5am and some days we were there again in the afternoon for the shift change,” says Mere.
Cedenco Foods, which produces natural fruit and vegetable ingredients for world export, operates a three-shift cycle at its 24-hour plant. General Manager Darryl Hudson says onsite visits from Turanga Health nurses and kaiawhina are helping keep staff fit and well. He knew the smokefree programme would be a “good fit” with the mainly Maori and Pacifica staff. He also knew there would be more chance of success if the Turanga Health staff were regularly there – so he gave Christine and Mere unfettered access!
“Christine and Mere ran things themselves and that was great for us. When the crew came into the café for a break they could see the smokefree ladies, blow into the machine, and talk about how to beat the addiction.” He says the company is looking at running the programme again next year.
During the 12-week programme Cedenco staff did a weekly smokerlyzer test. Staff blew into a smokerlyzer machine and it revealed if they had any carbon monoxide on their breath. Carbon monoxide is the poison inhaled when people smoke. A reading under-5 means the person has not smoked that day. A low reading usually leads to an almighty cheer.
The staff were awesomely supportive of each other, says Christine. “There was a real team vibe, people would awhi friends and family, and even staff not on the programme would offer congratulations when a smoker blew a low score”.
The 50 Cedenco Foods staff were broken into teams of 10 people. There was a $1000 prize for the team that blew the lowest amount over 12 weeks. One whānau group saw uncles helping nephews and vice versa. For the record the ladies team called Six-to-Two-Shift won! Spot prizes of gym and pool passes, and meat, as well as prizes for effort, were announced each week and helped motivate staff.
Factory worker Bobby-Joe Brown-Kaiwai says she joined the programme because she was wasting $100 a week on cigarettes that she could otherwise spend on essentials and treats. She has rheumatic heart disease and faces surgery in the future - so has more than most to gain from quitting smoking. “I got a long way to stopping smoking before, so when a programme came to work I thought I would try again.” Bobby-Joe dropped from about 20 cigarettes a day to three, and is determined to keep it at that number or less.
A few weeks on from the programme Kody Te Hau enjoys better breathing in normal life and while in the Rescue Squad hazmat suit. “The suits are for protection, not comfort but it’s getting easier all the time”.
A gym instructor with years of experience working with rugby players, kids, and a special Olympian, heads a new Turanga Health programme helping patients live longer, healthier and more independent lives.
Bernie Semau, 30, is leading Eke Tū, Turanga Health’s long term conditions programme. The new programme offers GPs somewhere to refer patients who need extra help making positive lifestyle changes to manage or prevent a chronic condition.
“When we say chronic condition we mean something like obesity, diabetes, or heart disease,” says Bernie.
“It is the invisible epidemics of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases that for the foreseeable future will take the greatest toll in deaths and disability in this region. However, it is by no means a future without hope,” says Bernie.
“Eke Tū is a wraparound programme that will give the referred patients an opportunity to improve fitness, lose weight, and improve their overall physical and mental health.”
Twenty patients, 10 from Gisborne and 10 from Te Karaka, will be selected for the four month programme based on their risk factors identified by the referring GP.
“We are helping people who are showing signs of things like high blood pressure and a high Body Mass Index (BMI), as well as other clinical indicators pointing to challenges ahead for the patient.”
The programme has a strong focus on physical activity. Bernie, who was previously a gym instructor at Jetts Fitness Gisborne, has developed a varied and fun, but safe programme for the referred patients.
“Yes we go to the gym and we go swimming, but we have also built in plenty of outdoor exercise as well as yoga and relaxation techniques. The overall programme is monitored by a Turanga Health nurse.”
As well as physical exercise there is a strong educational component to the programme. “We want to teach our patients, empower them, to take a leading role in their own care. It’s about giving them knowledge and skills, and motivation, to make good decisions in daily life.”
Referring GP Mark Devcich says GPs and nurses are well aware of the need to take action to reduce the risk of early death for a patient. “We are seeing more people develop the serious complications of chronic conditions at an earlier age – heart attacks and strokes, kidney, eye and foot problems, all increasing the risk of early death or major disability in relatively young people.”
Dr Devcich says he will be able to refer patients to the Turanga Health programme knowing they’ll be offered intensive professional support to lose weight, improve their diet and increase physical activity – all known to reduce the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes.”
Winter’s here but a strengthened relationship between Turanga Health and Curtain Bank Gisborne means more Tairāwhiti families are getting help to stay warm.
Established in 2009 to provide made-to-measure curtains for people and families on low incomes, Curtain Bank Gisborne volunteers are always busy snipping, stitching and sewing to restock their shelves with donated curtains.
Families from all over the district are referred for upcycled drapes and curtains by Plunket, Women’s Refuge, Barnados and Work and Income. But the biggest referrer is Turanga Health. In the past 12 months 40 whānau have received new window coverings as a result of the bolstered relationship between the two organisations.
“We receive referrals from all over but Memory Taylor at Turanga Health has smoothed the way for our organisations to help each other out much more,” says Curtain Bank Coordinator Sharron Hall. “Sixty percent of Curtain Bank’s referrals now come from Turanga Health. Memory is just what we needed.”
Memory is Turanga Health’s Healthy Home Kaiāwhina. Healthy Home interventions include referral to health and social agencies, installing insulation and ventilation, and design improvements to houses. Support can be anything from curtains to draft stoppers, or in some cases, help with transferring a family to more appropriate housing.
Memory sees the culprits of a cold home as soon as she walks in. No curtains, draughts under doors, crumbling insulation, and expensive yet ineffective sources of heat. When she began her job 12 months ago one of her first ports of call was Curtain Bank in the Red Cross rooms on Palmerston Rd.
“My first impressions were ‘what a lovely group of ladies’. All of them giving up their free time to help the community. I wanted to be part of it.” Now, as well as a referrer, Memory is one of seven volunteers who sew curtains every Tuesday.
Once a referral is received complete with window measurements, it takes three to four weeks before curtains are ready for hanging. Memory will hang the curtains herself, or families will call in to the Curtain Bank to pick up their curtain parcel.
Sharron and Memory love the reactions of families. Memory says it makes her feel like Santa “The good thing is that all our clients are appreciative of anything they receive. It’s awesome. And it’s why I love my work. It doesn’t matter if there’s a patch in the fabric or if it doesn’t match the carpet - they are so happy.”
There’s only one problem. “We are always running out of curtains but never running out of needy families,” says Sharron. “Please donate your old curtains if you are refurbishing. We will be able to make something out of them. Don’t chuck them away.”
Anyone with old curtains, rods or racks, fabric or hooks, is encouraged to drop them to Curtain Bank Gisborne, Red Cross, 336 Palmerston Road, any day of the week.
A wee boy with a cheeky smile is a ray of hope for a Gisborne woman with heart disease whose father and brother died from similar conditions.
Maryann Koia, 31, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou, was diagnosed with heart disease in 2014 and now has an internal cardiac defibrillator.
With nephew Lorenzo as inspiration and a little bit of help from Tūranga Health, Maryann has chosen life!
THE years after losing the two most important men in her life: father Jack Koia in January 2013, and brother Tim-Kaui Koia in April 2013 were tough for Maryann Koia. Jack died from heart failure and Tim-Kaui died from the complications of rheumatic heart disease. In late 2014 Maryann received the same diagnosis as her father. She’s received care from the cardiology team at Hauora Tairāwhiti and tonnes of whānau support ever since.
But more was to come.
In an awful spate of circumstances Maryann’s younger sister Oasis lost her young partner Thomas Tipene to trauma and illness the same year. Oasis gave birth to their son Lorenzo just two weeks after Thomas passed away.
“There has been a lot of trauma and sadness in our lives,” says Maryann who lives with her mum, sister, and toddler Lorenzo in Mangapapa. “But during all the time we’ve had Lorenzo. He’s been the biggest part of my life and I get up every day just to be around him.”
Lorenzo seems unaware of the central role he plays in the family. Buzzing up and down in the kitchen on his three-wheeler and due for his afternoon nap, he is all smiles and chatter. During lunch time everyone takes turns helping him out with his kai and he clearly adores them all. Without him, they all say their world would be infinitely darker.
“He brings so much life and health into the house,” says Kathy. “The healing is continuing for us all. It will take a while, it’s been a long process, but we are back on track.”
Also helping Maryann get back on track throughout the challenges has been Tūranga Health, in particular whanau ora kaimahi (community support worker) Maria Samoa.
Maria has helped Maryann wrestle to stay well following her pacemaker surgery. Maryann joined Turanga Health’s fitness classes, learned more about healthy eating , and got help managing her medication. Maria has nudged Maryann along to important health and social service appointments and coaxed her into situations where she can meet more people. She’s always on-hand for Maryann to talk to when the going gets tough. Cutting down from 20 cigarettes a day to 10 with help from Tūranga Health’s smoking cessation programme has been the latest success.
“There have been some dark times for Maryann for sure,” says Maria. “I try and motivate her and get the most out of life. In the past, yes, it’s been a challenge just getting out of bed, but now she is a model client”.
Earlier this year Maryann, her mum Kathy, and Maria, formed a team for the Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti Do It 4 U Triathlon. Kathy is an avid cyclist, and Maria has done the triathlon before, but for Maryann the event was unique.
“It’s normal in our house for mum to exercise, so I am sure it wasn’t my idea, but we did it!” says Maryann. They called their team Lorenzo’s Angels. “I enjoyed the experience, even if my pants were falling down as I ran towards the pool! The best bit was running to the finish line with Kathy and Maria.”
When asked what she wants out of life Maryann is adamant heart disease won’t define her. She’s sticking around. She would love to be able to do a small amount of paid work and have a family herself one day. And she wants to be at Lorenzo’s 21st birthday.
“Lorenzo has bought joy to our lives and I want to watch him grow. I love all little people but he’s special, he’s got my heart, he’s the nephew and moko that I want to live a long life for. I love him.”
RARE and unique Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision footage of Tairāwhiti whānau between 1919 and the 1980’s will screen at the Lawson Field Theatre tomorrow.
Footage includes the welcome home for the Māori Pioneer Battalion (1919); the funeral of Sir Apirana Ngata (1950); the centennial hui of Ringatū church members at Muriwai (1967); Waihīrere Māori Group (1965); and the Governor General Sir Charles Ferguson at Rāhui Marae, Tikitiki (1926).
In conjunction with Turanga Health the collection of moving images and audio taonga will bring to life the voice of Tairāwhiti Māori during this time.
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision (New Zealand Film Archive, Sound Archives, and Television New Zealand Archive) will screen the films at Turanga Health’s morning Kaumātua Programme, and then again for the public in the evening.
Turanga Health’s Kay Robin says Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision staff bringing the footage to Gisborne are interested in identifying more of the people in the moving images.
“We hope to fill the theatre. For many it will be a bombardment of memories. For others it will be fascinating look at the way Māori were depicted during the decades.”
Public screening: Tuesday 24 May, 6pm-7.30pm, Lawson Field Theatre. Gold coin donation.
A group of young mums are enjoying this Mother’s Day feeling fitter and better equipped to cope with whatever life delivers after getting some help from Turanga Health.
Mums and Bubs is a weekly work out for mothers of young children who’d normally find it difficult to find a way to exercise. Participants bring their pēpi (infants) in to the YMCA Gisborne and while they work up a sweat their toddlers beetle around the floor and play with supplied toys at the back of the room. At the edge of the class Turanga Health support staff cuddle babies while keeping an eye on fast-moving toddlers.
Mums and Bubs is part of Turanga Health’s Māmā and Pēpi wraparound service for Māori and non-Māori mothers and includes antenatal classes, help with breastfeeding, and social services support.
Turanga Health staff member Grace Donald says finding time to look after themselves can be a low priority for young busy mums. “We wanted to create a positive experience with exercise while eliminating any barriers such as transport, cost, confidence and childcare.”
Grace says sometimes the hardest thing about getting fit while looking after a baby is getting started and having to be separated from your baby. “But if baby is part of the class half of the problem is fixed - the only thing left is to push yourself to start. Just like Mother’s Day we want this programme to be all about the mums!"
While she talks Grace is rocking five-month-old Swayze Boyd-Kitai to sleep. His mother Cheev Boyd-Kitai thinks today’s class, SH’BAM is the ultimate way to exercise. The simple but seriously hot dance moves are set to a soundtrack of popular hits and everyone is having a blast.
“I came because I wanted to get fit and be healthy for my baby. I love exercising like this, I wouldn’t want to exercise in front of other people right now, so this is the bomb. It’s time to work on you.”
Cimarron Apiata is mum to Te Aotaihi. Her five-month old daughter Erana is being held by a Turanga Health staff member. Cimarron says she comes back every week because childcare isn’t a problem and it’s good to get out. “I like coming back. It’s a good work out, on the bike especially, good for my legs.”
As well as SH’BAM, fitness instructors have created spin classes (on stationary bikes) and light weights classes. YMCA Gisborne fitness coordinator Frauke Nieschmidt says she works with a lot of mothers and they are always telling her how hard it is to get back into exercise after you have just had a baby.
“These classes are getting mums back into fitness and giving them a chance to socialise with other mothers.”
She says the 30 minute workouts are created with young, busy, mothers in mind. The dance moves aren’t complex, the weights aren’t loaded up, and the overall aim is to have fun. “Often they have been up for baby at night, they might be breastfeeding, so we take all that into consideration. All day they give themselves to their kids and so this is a treat for them. They deserve this.”
For more information about the Mums and Bubs fitness classes contact Grace Donald.
Car shows are usually the domain of hot roads, street machines, and race cars, but today Turanga Health’s state-of-the-art mobile clinic is on display at Parliament.
Showing off her custom fabricated tread plate and one-off vinyl wrapped graphics, Turanga Health’s bespoke mobile clinic shone like a diamond alongside other mobile healthcare vehicles on display.
Turanga Health’s mobile clinic is in Wellington as part of the 2016 Mobile Health Rural Nurses Meeting. During a break from presentations to rural health staff, a range of the country’s mobile health vehicles went on display for public and politicians to check out.
Mobile health clinics like Turanga Health’s Piki te Ora (or ’The Bus’ as it is affectionately known) are used widely around the world as “patient care anywhere” is becoming the reality, says Turanga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha.
Turanga Health’s mobile bus was purchased in 2011 and is used to manage patient clinics in rural areas. When people come inside and see it is a fully functional clinic room they are pleasantly surprised, says Mr Ropiha. “As well as nurse clinics, Turanga Health has an easier way of offering influenza immunisation in woolsheds; on-site work place health checks; and drug and alcohol advice to teenagers at sports events.”
Mobile healthcare vehicles have been operating in New Zealand since the early 90’s. These vehicles allow access to health care where the cost of having a bricks and mortar facility is prohibitive or the population is not large enough to fully utilise the service.
The unique opportunity to see inside some very specialised and healthcare vehicles was enjoyed by hundreds of people in Wellington. Piki te Ora was parked alongside mobile surgical and dental units, the mobile Breastscreen unit, a mobile diagnostics vehicle, and a lithotripsy bus.
Turanga Health nurse Liz Mackenzie, and service manager Dwayne Tamatea are attending the Mobile Health Rural Nurses Meeting. They will show off Piki te Ora during open days at Te Papa this Thursday and Friday.
For more information contact:
Reweti Ropiha (06) 869 0457
Stephen Blair was diagnosed with type two diabetes 18 months ago. Despite a long time living with gout, and numerous aches and pains from accidents, he was surprised at how serious this new disease was.
“It was unexpected. And I didn’t realize how big it was going to be. I have it in my family but I didn’t really think it would happen to me. I felt like I was being cursed.”
Because of his gout Stephen was already trying to live a healthier lifestyle. He didn’t smoke and he would try and eat healthy. But the new diagnosis spurred him to a greater effort.
When asked if he would like to take part in Tūranga Health’s Long Term Conditions education programme he jumped at the chance. “My frame of mind has always been to get rid of the diabetes so I said yes.”
Over the next two months Stephen found himself part of a weekly programme with 12 other participants. Each Wednesday morning Stephen and the others would learn more about their disease and how to manage it. The presentation on reading food labels and choosing the right foods to buy has really stuck with him.
“Oh yeah. I read the labels now. I look at the sugar content per 100g and if it’s more than 15g then I don’t get it.” He has also loved the camaraderie and company of the other participants. Stephen says much of his life was spent living in rural Motu and so he enjoys being around people. He now he lives in Ormond and can easily attend the programme.
Stephen was referred to the Long Term Conditions programme by Tūranga Health GP Mark Devcich. Stephen fell into the target group for the programme: men aged 51-65 with at least one long term condition.
Dr Devcich continues to monitor Stephen’s health with regular check-ups. Stephen also sees Tūranga Health nurse Lisa Cottle-Millar, with whom he credits for initially stepping him through his shock diagnosis. He says she helped him understand the ramifications of not doing anything, and showed him how easy it would be to make lifestyle changes.
Another important Tūranga Health staff member has been kaiāwhina Tangiwai Milner. Tangiwai is a little bit like a coach, someone who checks in on Stephen and doesn’t let him miss a medical appointment or any of his Long Term Condition programme presentations. “She’ll make sure I am going – she’ll even pick me up and take me there!”
Stephen’s progress has also been supported by Whānau Ora services. Tangible resources to help Stephen achieve his health goals include a water cooler system, food blender, an air oven, and a pair of good walking boots.
He is incredibly grateful for all the help and support he has received since his original diagnosis. Stephen has lost three kilograms in the past couple of months and is enthused about getting out into his garden and creating a vegetable patch. He is doing more exercise and just last week walked the Gisborne beach board walk.
“This is my new lifestyle. I know what the key messages are and I am going to get rid of the type two diabetes if I can.”
Joint Media Release with Hauora Tairawhiti
The number of children with rheumatic fever, New Zealand’s third world illness affecting mainly Māori and Pacific children, fell in 2015, suggesting the local Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme is having an impact.
In 2015 there were three confirmed cases of rheumatic fever inTairāwhiti compared with 10 in 2014, and 7 in 2013. “The figures, while not statistically significant, are very encouraging,” says Chair of the Rheumatic Fever Steering Group, and Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Medical Officer of Health, Margot McLean.
“The figures suggest that the prevention programme alongside increased public awareness, and the hard work of our local nurses, general practitioners and community health workers, has started to take effect,” says Dr McLean.
The Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme is a partnership between Turanga Health, Ngati Porou Hauora, Hauora Tairāwhiti, and primary care (medical centres). Rheumatic fever and sore throat education, as well as free sore throat swabbing services are available for the public in an effort to reduce the rate of acute rheumatic fever in Tairāwhiti.
As part of the campaign Turanga Health supported the implementation of rapid response sore throat clinics in Gisborne’s general practices, and in its own medical centre at Te Karaka. On the east coast, children with sore throats are managed by Ngati Porou Hauora general practitioners and nurses based at the local health clinics. Anyone with a child or young person aged 4-19 who has a sore throat can visit a practice for free and with no appointment needed. A nurse will take a throat swab and offer free antibiotics.
In Gisborne if a throat swab comes back positive for Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria, which can lead to rheumatic fever, and where there is consent, the child is referred to Turanga Health’s Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme. The child and family receive education and support from the programme’s kaiāwhina. This support service will be extended to the east coast later in the year and be provided by Ngati Porou Hauora.
Between May 2015 and February 2016, of the 5899 throat swabs taken across the district, exactly 1000 were found positive for GAS bacteria. In the same time period Turanga Health received 211 referrals to its Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme for antibiotic education and support, and or a Healthy Home assessment.
Rheumatic fever is associated with cold and overcrowded housing. Because of this, children who have been hospitalised with rheumatic fever (as well as certain other infectious illnesses related to poor housing) are referred to the Healthy Homes programme. Housing-related interventions include referral to health and social agencies, installing insulation and ventilation, and design improvements to the house. The support given may be anything from curtains, draft stoppers (made by Vanessa Lowndes Centre clients), or in some cases help with transferring the family to more appropriate housing. Turanga Health’s Healthy Home kaiāwhina is currently working with 25 families.
One Gisborne mum to benefit from the Healthy Homes initiative, Faith Rihia, says she and her daughter are much happier, warmer, and healthier in their new home which they moved into late last year with help from Turanga Health.
“It was stressful and I had no sleep,” remembers Faith from earlier demanding days when her 11-month-old baby girl had numerous chest, breathing, and throat conditions, leading to multiple hospital admissions. “It’s had a real benefit for [baby] Kerry-Anne and me, things are getting easier, it was a bit of extra help.”
Dr McLean said rheumatic fever is sometimes described as the disease that casts a long shadow. ”The ongoing consequences are serious. Although initial symptoms of rheumatic fever like swollen joints and fever get better, the heart valves may be damaged and this damage is permanent.”
“Young people who’ve had rheumatic fever need a decade, maybe more, of monthly painful antibiotic injections, to prevent the development of rheumatic heart disease, or to stop it getting worse. Rheumatic heart disease can lead to heart failure, the need for surgery, and for some people, a shorter life.”
Dr McLean said work initially done across this region including the school-based throat swabbing programme, and now the rapid response clinics and Healthy Homes initiative, mean in time it might be possible to rid the region of the disease. However there has already been one case of rheumatic fever recorded for 2016 – a reminder that families and health staff cannot afford to be complacent. “Sore throats matter!” says Dr McLean.
Parents and caregivers are reminded that if your child has a sore throat and especially if your family is Māori or Pacific, you need to take them to a doctor, nurse or community worker and get a throat swab.
For more information contact: Margot McLean, Chair of the Rheumatic Fever Steering Group, and Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Medical Officer of Health, 027 294 9379.
Rheumatic Fever – what you need to know
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