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Maori lead the way in bowel screening participation in the South

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Māori residents are participating in the Southern DHB’s National Bowel Screening Programme in higher numbers than other locals, with Māori participation rates equaling or exceeding overall participation every month since the programme began in April 2018.

"We believe the Southern DHB’s National Bowel Screening Programme has the highest indigenous participation of any national bowel screening programme in the world," says Programme Manager, Emma Bell. "It’s wonderful that so many Māori are taking part and being proactive about their bowel health."

As at the end of April 2019, the overall Southern participation rate was 72%, above the national average of 62% and the target of 60%. Māori participation in the South is also 72%, sitting 16% higher than the national average of 56%.

"The strong partnerships forged between the Southern bowel screening programme and community-based Māori health providers have played a large part in helping to achieve this outcome," says Emma Bell.

Chief Executive of provider Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu, Tracey Wright-Tawha, says it has been a pleasure to partner in this collaborative approach to raising awareness of bowel screening.

"Whānau is everything, and in sharing the key messages - be it over a cuppa, as part of an event, with a giggle or a shared tear - we can engage whānau to complete the test, we can make a difference, and we can save lives," she says. "Connections and relationships are vital, empowering and enabling. Together, we are united to ensure the word goes far and wide into our Māori communities and homes, to the places our people gather - mīharo! We have got this!"

In addition, Māori community members have generously become bowel screening ‘champions’: Colac Bay kuia, Shona Fordyce, whose husband had bowel cancer; Te RÅ«nanga o Ngāi Tahu Deputy Kaiwhakahaere, Matapura Ellison, whose father had bowel cancer; and Murihiku Marae’s Cyril Gilroy. Between them, they have promoted the programme by sharing their stories and perspectives on video, and appearing in the news media, on radio ads, posters, flyers and social media. They also feature in a series of printed resources in te reo Māori.

The latest Māori champion is Invercargill resident, Mooney Ngatuere, who has shared his experience of receiving a bowel screening test result and having a colonoscopy. His video also features representatives of the kaupapa Māori support services available to others in Mooney’s position in the Southern district.

According to the Ministry of Health, people diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer who receive treatment early, have a 90% chance of long-term survival.

The Southern DHB National Bowel Screening Programme is free for those aged 60-74 who are eligible for publicly funded health care. In its first year, to April 2019, it has detected 68 cases of bowel cancer and 737 cases of polyps, which can develop into cancer over time.

The National Bowel Screening Programme is now live in Waitemata, Counties-Manukau, Lakes, Hawkes Bay, Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, Nelson-Marlborough and Southern DHBs. The national roll out of the programme is expected to be completed by mid-June 2021.

The National Bowel Screening Programme

Screening can detect pre-cancerous polyps, or cancer at an early stage when it can often be successfully treated

It is free of charge for people aged 60 to 74 years of age who are eligible for public healthcare

Invitations for those eligible to participate are sent through the mail, followed by a test kit

The kits are easy and simple to do, and samples are returned by mail for testing

People are being asked to make sure their details are up to date with their GP so they don’t miss out

If any member of the public notices potential symptoms - such as a change in their normal bowel habit that continues for several weeks, or blood in a bowel motion - they should see their GP right away, not wait for their screening test.

For more information visit or freephone 0800 924 432.

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