School-based health clinics may be reducing the prevalence of rheumatic fever in South Auckland, according to new research.
Findings published in today's New Zealand Medical Journal shows schools in the Counties Manukau area with nurse-led Mana Kidz clinics have lower rates of Group A Streptococcus, the type of sore throat that can cause rheumatic fever.
The research has also found lower rates of severe skin infections.
Co-author Dr Pip Anderson, a public health physician at Counties Manukau District Health Board, said it was too early to say conclusively if rates of hospital admissions for acute rheumatic fever had also reduced.
But she said the findings were very positive, and the school communities were responding positively to the clinics as well.
"The key stakeholders like teachers and parents really thought the programme increased access [for] children and their whanau."
The Mana Kidz clinics have been set up in 61 schools in the Counties Manukau DHB area to detect sore throats that can become rheumatic fever.
Other clinics have also been set up in other parts of the country under the Government's $65 million rheumatic fever prevention plan.
Dr Anderson said the research showed the Mana Kidz clinics provided broader healthcare than other clinics, and had improved other healthcare outcomes.
"If little Johnny has got a skin infection and his 2-year-old sibling at home has got a skin infection, the nurse working at that school can provide management for both."
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the Government's rheumatic fever awareness campaign had also been successful.
He said independent analysis by Allen + Clarke Policy and Regulatory Specialists had found the Government's recent $1 million campaign had been efficient, relevant and effective.
The Government aims to reduce rheumatic fever by two-thirds by next June.