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Southern DHB marks first anniversary of bowel screening programme

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Approximately 26,000 home testing kits, dozens of community engagement sessions, nine inspirational champions and one giant inflatable bowel later, the Southern DHB’s National Bowel Screening Programme will celebrate its first anniversary on Wednesday 24 April.

But the numbers that matter the most are those that show the programme is having a significant impact on the lives of Southern residents.

Preliminary figures to the end of March show that 62 people have been diagnosed with bowel cancer as a result of the Southern programme. In addition, 552 people with non-cancerous polyps have been identified and treated.

The programme’s Clinical Lead, Dr Jason Hill, says the figures speak volumes. "We’re absolutely delighted with these results, which demonstrate the tangible effects of this programme," he says. "As well as identifying instances of bowel cancer, it’s significant that we are identifying and removing many cases of polyps, which, over time, can turn into bowel cancer. There can be no doubt the programme is making a considerable difference to Southern residents."

Screening participation rates have been consistently high throughout the South. The latest Ministry of Health data, to the end of January 2019, indicate that all Southern DHB regions exceed the national participation target of 60%. Overall, the Southern participation rate is 70.6%, above the national average.

Māori participation in the South is also above the national average at 70.2%. Strong partnerships between the bowel screening programme and community-based Māori health providers have played a large part in helping to achieve this outcome.

"We would like to increase those figures even further," says Dr Hill. "And, as we enter our second year, we’ll be focusing considerable effort on raising awareness and participation among our local Asian and Pasifika populations, which have 55.2% and 55.4% participation rates respectively. Another key priority group is that of residents in lower decile areas, where the participation rate is currently 62.7%."

The National Bowel Screening Programme is a free programme to help detect bowel cancer. It is being offered every two years to men and women aged 60 to 74 years who are eligible for publicly funded health care. Information about the programme is available at or by calling the freephone number 0800 924 432.

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