Labour promises to expand Healthy Homes to all DHBs to help fight rheumatic fever

Source: 1News

Labour Leader and Mt Albert candidate Jacinda Ardern has promised that her party will expand the Healthy Homes intiative to all of New Zealand if elected.

Healthy Homes sets out specific minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture, drainage and draught stopping in rental properties.

These factors have been identified as contributing the New Zealand's cases of rheumatic fever - 160, on average, per year - and rates are much higher among Pacific and Māori populations.

The expansion would also be accompanied by the strengthening of compliance and enforcement efforts by Tenancy Services for property owners who fail to comply.

Healthy Homes is already in place across nine New Zealand DHB areas - those with the highest rates of rheumatic fever - and Ardern said her party would expand it to the remaining nine DHBs.

That expansion would cost $39 million over four years, with the money spent on supporting the purchase of curtains, floor coverings, heater, beds , bedding, mould kits and minor housing repairs.

Another $16 million would be spent over the next four years on compliance and enforcement team staffing at Tenancy Services to make sure the new standards were followed.

Ardern said a new registry of rheumatic fever patients would be created, which will help to assist with follow up reminders to them about the ongoing treatment required.

"While good progress has been made to tackle the conditions that lead to 'strep throat' and consequential rheumatic fever, we need to keep up the momentum," Ardern said.

"We will drive greater resources into efforts to eliminate this illness and protect our most vulnerable communities.

"It is unacceptable that poor quality housing is causing lifelong heart damage, as well as swelling and pain in joints and skin, and increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illness.

"Labour will also ensure that people being tested for COVID-19 who fall into the high-risk groups for rheumatic fever are also tested for Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria – which can cause a throat infection that develops into rheumatic fever.

"We want this disease to vanish from New Zealand."