Reducing rheumatic fever

Between 2012 and June 2017, the Better Public Services programme included a target to reduce rheumatic fever by two-thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people.

How are we doing?

In the 12 months ending on 1 December 2020, there were 151 people diagnosed for the first time with rheumatic fever in New Zealand.

First episode rheumatic fever hospitalisations, annual rate per 100,000, New Zealand, 2002–2020

shows the rate of people admitted to hospital with rheumatic fever for the first time from 2002 to 2020.

The graph above shows the rate of people admitted to hospital with rheumatic fever for the first time from 2002 to 2020.

Shows the rate of people admitted to hospital with rheumatic fever for the first time by ethnicity between 2009 and 2020.

The graph above shows the rate of Māori and Pacific people admitted to hospital with rheumatic fever for the first time between 2009 and 2020.  The rates by ethnic group were slightly higher to those for 2019 for Māori and lower for Pacific people. 

Overall, for Māori, the incidence in 2020 is 10 percent lower than it was in 2009.  For Pacific people, the incidence in 2020 is similar to that in 2009.

The following table shows the numbers and rates of people being admitted to hospital with rheumatic fever for the first time in 2020 by age group. It shows that the majority of cases continue to occur in children between 5 and 14 years.

First episode rheumatic fever hospitalisations, rate per 100,000, by age group, 2020
Age group Number Rate (per 100,000)
0–4 years 3 1.0
5–14 years 101 15.3
15-24 years 29 4.4
25–44 years 14 1.1
45+ years 4 0.2

The table below details the rheumatic fever rates in 2009/10–2011/12 (three-year average rate) and in 2020 for District Health Board.

District health board 2009/10–2011/12 (rate per 100,000) 2020 (rate per 100,000)
Northland 10.5 3.6
Waitemata 2.2 3.2
Auckland 3.3 2.4
Counties Manukau 13.6 7.0
Waikato 3.5 4.9
Lakes 7.8 5.2
Bay of Plenty 3.8 3.9
Hauora Tairāwhiti 8.5
Taranaki 0.9 0.0
Hawke's Bay 4.4 4.0
MidCentral 1.8 3.2
Whanganui 3.2
Capital & Coast 3.1 2.8
Hutt Valley 4.9 3.8
Wairarapa 0 0.0
Southern region 0.5 0.3

Source: National Minimum Dataset

Note: Rates have not been calculated where there were fewer than four cases. This is because the small numbers will result in unreliable estimates of rates.

Where to from here?

Rheumatic fever prevention will continue to be a focus for the 11 DHBs with a high incidence of rheumatic fever.

In May 2019, the Government allocated $12 million over 4 years to improve the prevention and management of rheumatic fever, primarily in the Auckland region where most cases occur.

This $12 million is in addition to the $5 million allocated per year to the 11 DHBs with a high incidence of rheumatic fever so they can continue to deliver a balanced mix of rheumatic fever prevention activities to address rheumatic fever and reduce rheumatic fever rates.

Downloads

You can download the data tables for first episode rheumatic fever hospitalisations. Rates and numbers are available for the New Zealand population, by ethnic group and for district health board. The workbook also includes the data definition that is used to calculate first episode rheumatic fever hospitalisations.

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