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A complicated problem like rheumatic fever requires innovative and creative approaches to healthcare. In Auckland, when a family is identified as being at risk of developing rheumatic fever they are offered assistance and advice from a new programme.
The Auckland-wide Healthy Homes Initiative (AWHI) currently operates across greater Auckland, which has the highest numbers of rheumatic fever cases in New Zealand.
Families who are eligible for AWHI are identified in a number of ways, either by one of the children being admitted to a paediatric hospital, if one of the children has had rheumatic fever in the past, or if children have had multiple Group A Streptococcal sore throats identified by an in-school throat checking programme.
There are broad social issues that can impact on the health and wellbeing of children and a contributor for rheumatic fever is housing conditions, particularly living in crowded homes.
Many families whose lives are impacted by rheumatic fever are also accessing services from other government agencies, including housing and financial assistance. By bringing this support together and focussing on the needs of each family we can improve their housing conditions and reduce overcrowding, which in turn can reduce their risk of developing rheumatic fever and other related conditions.
The Auckland-wide Healthy Homes Initiative brings families together with a support worker who assesses their housing conditions and offers help and advice.
This can range from getting home insulation, curtains and household repairs to ensure their home is warm, giving help to access a larger home through a social housing provider, ensuring families are receiving the correct financial assistance via the Ministry of Social Development, and linking families together with community, church and charitable organisations who can help with other household needs.
It is still early days for the programme, but since referrals starting in December 2013 there have already been 81 families referred into the service.
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