Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia says a $12 million boost for the fight against rheumatic fever should be enough to eradicate the "third-world disease".
Mrs Turia made the pre-budget funding announcement alongside Prime Minister John Key at Porirua's Holy Family primary school on Wednesday.
Porirua City has the highest rate of rheumatic fever among five to 15-year-olds in New Zealand.
The disease often starts with a sore throat, caused by streptococcus bacteria, and can lead to lifelong heart, joint, skin and nerve problems.
The extra funding in the May 24 budget takes the total five-year rheumatic fever package to $24 million.
The total funding will go towards school nurses swabbing the sore throats and providing antibiotic follow-up for 35,000 at-risk children in seven regions - Northland, South Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Lakes District (Taupo and Rotorua), Tairawhiti (East Coast), Hawke's Bay and Porirua.
Mr Key says rheumatic fever is "extremely prevalent" in New Zealand, with a rate of infection 14 times higher than any other OECD country.
"Really for a first-world country, we shouldn't have rheumatic fever, and it's a disgrace that we do," he said.
Mrs Turia agreed, saying: "It's a third-world disease and we're hardly a third-world country".
The disease largely occurs in cold, overcrowded homes, which the government is looking to address through home insulation and housing upgrades.
Mrs Turia says all at-risk communities will be covered, thanks to the new funding, and she's hopeful it will help stamp out the disease.
"We're looking for eradication, so over the next few years we're hoping that we'll get to a point where we can then go out and say rheumatic fever doesn't exist, and that's a very good goal," she said.
"It has happened in parts of [Northland], where there's been some diligence applied to throat swabbing, so we know that we can eradicate."