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Six rheumatic fever short films co-designed by Auckland students and released late last year represent another important step in raising rheumatic fever awareness.

Young people from four secondary schools and two community youth groups have been involved with the Rheumatic Fever Film Project, developing a range of storylines to deliver rheumatic fever prevention messages through youth-appropriate language and scenes.

The project has been led by the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs in partnership with the Ministry of Health’s Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme (RFPP). It is part of the RFPP Youth Campaign, which aims to raise rheumatic fever awareness among 13-19 year-old Māori and Pacific youth living in areas with high rates of rheumatic fever.

“We know that kids listen to kids and youth listen to youth, so that’s one of the magic ingredients that makes this project such a success. It’s really handing over control to young people,” Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs (MPIA) Chief Executive Pauline Winter says.

“Crucially, the films raise awareness of rheumatic fever among young people and the communities most at risk of the disease. The students involved have also had the opportunity to claim National Certificate of Educational Achievement credits for their films, as well as showcasing the creative talent of budding young filmmakers.

It is also a good example of Better Public Services in action – the Ministries of Health and Pacific Island Affairs working together to improve outcomes for at-risk Pacific and Māori young people.”

Teenagers from Auckland’s James Cook High School, Mt Roskill Grammar, Kelston Boys High School, Tamaki College and two community youth groups took part in the project.

Rheumatic fever is a serious illness, which in New Zealand most often affects Māori and Pacific children and young people aged 4-19 years.

“It’s very important our youth learn more about this illness and the films will ensure that the key messages get to the film makers’ peers in a way that the young people want them to,” Pauline Winter says.

“Kids have got technology and different ways of communicating and this is allowing them to have their voice in a way that traditionally they wouldn’t have. And it’s not just any voice, it’s an informative voice.

“Making sure our young Pacific people are healthy is a critical part of achieving MPIA’s vision of more Successful Pacific Peoples.’’

RFPP lead Dr Chrissie Pickin says that reducing rheumatic fever is a Government priority, with more than $65 million invested over six years to bring rates down. As part of the Better Public Service focus, the Government has a target to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds by June 2017.

“We want youngsters most at risk of this disease to understand that a strep throat infection can lead to rheumatic fever if it is not checked or treated with appropriate antibiotics,” Dr Pickin says.

“And, that once antibiotics are prescribed, the full course needs to be taken to properly treat the sore throat.”

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