Almost all Northland rheumatic fevers occur in Māori - report

Northland doctors want a single national database for cases of rheumatic fever as rates continue to be among the worst in the world. 

An audit has found that despite public health initiatives, 93 percent of all rheumatic fever cases in Northland are Māori, and almost 90 percent of all cases occur in areas with high deprivation levels.

Northland DHP spokesperson Kate Wauchop says it is caused by overcrowded housing and recurring infections.

"It's strongly associated with living in poverty, and that's, unfortunately, the case for so many of our Māori children living in Northland."

Wauchop says the Ministry of Health only records hospitalisations, so misses data from primary care and emergency departments. 

In May, the Government invested $12 million into fighting preventable disease among Māori and Pacific people. Nationwide, Pacific people make up 57 percent of all rheumatic fever cases while Māori account for 37 percent. The rest of the population represents just 6 percent of cases.

Wauchop says the audit confirmed what they have already known for a long time.

"Despite the funding and public prevention programmes that have been put in place over the past decade, Māori children aged five to 15 still have a rate of 64.5 per 100,000 per year, which is amongst the worst in the world."

She wants more consistent data to be collected by the Ministry of Health to ensure efficient funding. At present, there are several different ways of collecting data.

"This leads to us to having different data sets, which ultimately leads to us not having true knowledge of the burden of disease, which we think our audit has demonstrated."

Two-thirds of rheumatic fever cases occur in Auckland. 

The latest research was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday.