Rheumatic fever on the agenda at Geneva

Health Minister Dr David Clark leaves for Geneva today for this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) with the goal of securing a global plan for combating rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

New Zealand Ministry of Health officials have worked hard with colleagues from Pacific and African countries to get the topic on the agenda at this year’s forum.

“The fact New Zealand has rheumatic fever is a concern, but we’re not alone. Countries across the world and particularly in Africa, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific region are all affected by the disease”, David Clark said.

 “Rheumatic fever and the long term heart damage that can result from it are serious but preventable.

“Getting rheumatic fever on the WHA agenda, means we can discuss the current situation across the world, coordinate with international researchers and partners to improve our prevention and treatment, and importantly - provide support for countries bearing the greatest burden of the disease.

“We’ll also be discussing how poverty-related factors including poor housing, overcrowding and reduced access to health care are contributing to the prevalence of the disease worldwide”, David Clark said.

Before the three day WHA which begins on Monday, Dr Clark will attend the annual meeting of Commonwealth Health Ministers.
This year’s topic for discussion is how to raise awareness, mobilise resources and ensure accessibility to universal health coverage to help in the global fight against non-communicable conditions such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases.

While at the Geneva WHA, Dr Clark will also meet with Pacific Health Ministers to discuss priority issues for the region and give New Zealand’s country statement on achieving ‘health for all’.

Furthermore, he is scheduled to discuss mental health, electronic health records, cancer care and other pressing topics with health ministers from around the world.