Media release | The National Hauora Coalition (NHC) and Counties Manukau Health have become aware of misinformation spreading across social media about COVID-19 testing in schools. This misinformation implies that schools are testing children for COVID-19 without parental consent and then removing children from school who test positive without notification.
The misinformation appears to be directed at the Mana Kidz programme which provides an equitable rheumatic fever prevention programme, following national guidelines, which runs across 88 primary and intermediate schools in the South Auckland area, serving 34,000 children every day.
A key feature of this service is providing throat swabs to tamariki to detect Streptococcal infections. If untreated, a Streptococcal infection can lead to rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease which can be fatal.
These throat swabs have reportedly been mistaken by some parents for a COVID-19 test.
NHC and Counties Manukau Health emphatically state that no children involved in our Mana Kidz programme are being swabbed for COVID-19 or being removed from school.
To have a child seen in the school-based Mana Kidz programme, caregivers must give their written consent. Caregivers are offered information and a consent form for the programme when their tamariki enrol at the school. Any student whose caregiver has not consented to their involvement in the programme is not offered a throat swab or any other assessment or treatment.
NHC and Counties Manukau Health are keen to work with communities to offer services that are needed and appropriate. Whether COVID-19 testing in schools is appropriate needs further consideration.
We reiterate that no children involved in our school-based service are being swabbed for COVID-19 or being removed from school.
This misinformation is not only incorrect, but it also risks seriously undermining an important health initiative.
Rheumatic fever inequitably affects Māori and Pacific children in New Zealand. School-based throat swabbing services, such as the Mana Kidz programme, are a key element of rheumatic fever prevention interventions.
We urge whānau who have further questions or concerns to contact trusted information sources such as Counties Manukau Health or Mana Kidz via their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/manakidz.nz or https://m.facebook.com/countiesmanukau.health.nz/), phone (0800 MK TEAM) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
About Mana Kidz
Mana Kidz is a free, nurse-led, school-based programme that provides comprehensive healthcare by registered nurses and whānau support workers. The programme delivers care to 34,000 children across 88 South Auckland schools in the Counties Manukau Health region. The programme started out as a Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme and has grown to include comprehensive health care. This includes health education, health promotion, vision checks, hearing checks, skin infection treatment and management, hygiene and overall general health assessments. This programme is jointly funded by Counties Manukau Health and the Ministry of Health.
About National Hauora Coalition
NHC exists to support whānau to achieve hauora. Our vision is mana whānau, whānau ora and we are a lead advocate for hauora Māori (Wai 2687) through the Waitangi Tribunal Health Services Kaupapa Inquiry (Wai 2575). In our day to day activities, we partner with a wide range of agencies, Iwi and industry groups to commission and deliver a broad range of indigenously designed health and social services to improve health outcomes for Māori, achieve health equity and greater social cohesion for the benefit of Aotearoa.