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Result 3 Case Study 16 

New Zealand’s first national rheumatic fever awareness campaign was launched in May 2014 to highlight the serious impact the disease can have on the lives of children, young people and their families.

The 2014 Winter Rheumatic Fever Awareness Campaign is part of the more than $67 million government-funded Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme (RFPP), which is led by the Ministry of Health. The campaign is being delivered by Crown entity, the Health Promotion Agency.
The campaign focuses on helping to increase knowledge of the link between sore throats and rheumatic fever, the serious heart damage that it can cause and the impact this has on at-risk families and communities.

Ministry of Health Rheumatic Fever Programme Lead Dr Chrissie Pickin said the awareness campaign supports one of the three key RFPP strategies to reduce rheumatic fever rates.

These strategies are:

  • Increasing awareness of rheumatic fever, what causes it and how to prevent it
  • Improving access to timely treatment for strep throat infections, which can lead to rheumatic fever
  • Reducing household crowding and therefore, the household transmission of the strep throat bacteria that can cause rheumatic fever.

“We want parents, cause and caregivers of children and young people in the high-risk communities to know about the importance of getting sore throats checked and treated as quickly as possible to prevent rheumatic fever,” Dr Pickin said.

“Rheumatic fever has a huge impact on the lives of impact and Pacific children and young people aged 5 to 19, and it starts with a sore throat.  This campaign encourages parents and caregivers to respond to their child’s sore throat by getting every sore throat checked by a doctor or nurse or at one of the free community based sore throat clinics in Auckland, Porirua and Hutt Valley.”

The national campaign was timed for winter, when there is traditionally an increase in the rates of the strep sore throat infections that can lead to rheumatic fever.

It kicked off with a strong Pacific and with regional radio advertising focus in Auckland and Wellington. Other promotional elements were added sequentially, including national TV advertising, online banners, outdoor promotions (such as posters on bus stop shelters), print advertising, online videos and social media activities.

The online videos feature the very personal stories of Pacific and personal stories whose lives were dramatically affected by rheumatic fever (See Video 1: Rheumatic Fever – A Parent’s Perspective). There are also videos with clinical advice from health professionals who regularly assess and treat children with rheumatic fever, as well as a video with information about the free sore throat clinics set up to make it easier for parents and caregivers to get their child’s throat quickly assessed and treated (See Video 2: Rheumatic fever  - Sore Throat Clinic).

Key messages from the campaign

  • A sore throat can lead to rheumatic fever if it’s left untreated.  Rheumatic fever is very serious and causes heart damage.
  • Every time your child has a sore throat it could be serious.  Don’t ignore, take them to a doctor or nurse straight away to get it checked.
  • We know it is a big ask to get your child checked every time they have a sore throat, but it is important. Do it for them.

Calls to action from the campaign

  • Every time your child has a sore throat it could be serious – take them to a doctor or nurse straight away to get it checked. Ring Healthline on 0800 611 116 to find out where your nearest free sore throat clinic is.
  • If you are prescribed a course of antibiotics, please take them for the whole 10 days or they might not work.

To view resources – including TV advertisements and online videos – produced for the campaign, go to the HPA website.

VIDEO: Rheumatic Fever – A Parent's Perspective

VIDEO: Rheumatic fever - Sore Throat Clinic


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