In 2008 Diana Lennon was an inaugural co-recipient of the Dame Joan Metge Medal, for the major impact she has had on lives of New Zealand children. But Lennon’s greatest positive effect may have been more recent – in 2017 she published results showing that a community initiative could significantly reduce the rate of rheumatic fever in primary school children. Rheumatic fever, a serious illness that often begins with a sore throat, occurs at a much higher rate in New Zealand than in other developed countries. The disease is associated with poverty and has been increasing in Pacific and Māori children.
Lennon’s trial – a world first – evaluated the effect of clinics set up within schools, where children with sore throats could have swabs to check for the infection which causes the disease. Lennon’s team found that over two years of running the clinics, the rates of rheumatic fever dropped by 58 percent.
“Community Scoop » Global First for Rheumatic Fever Research,” accessed November 19, 2017, http://community.scoop.co.nz/2017/03/global-first-for-rheumatic-fever-research/.