National bowel screening campaign a lifesaver


Associate Ministers of Health Peeni Henare and Aupito William Sio have today launched a national multimedia campaign encouraging people to take part in the Government’s lifesaving bowel screening programme.

“Our Government is committed to ensuring that every New Zealander gets the best possible healthcare no matter where they live or who they are, and our once-in-a-generation reform of the health service, and policies such as our recent extension of the bowel screening programme, demonstrate the progress we are making,” Peeni Henare said.

“Bowel cancer is the second-most common cause of cancer death in Aotearoa, claiming more than 1200 lives a year, which is why it is so critical that as many New Zealanders as possible are encouraged to do their quick and easy bowel screening.

“People who are diagnosed with early-stage bowel cancer have a 90 per cent chance of long-term survival if they get timely treatment. Making sure our whānau access bowel screening means more of our mothers, fathers, aunties and uncles enjoying a life that would otherwise have been cut tragically short. That’s what makes campaigns to boost awareness and uptake of our screening programme like this one so important,” Peeni Henare said.

Free bowel screening is available to approximately 835,000 New Zealanders aged 60 to 74. The screening programme is available across all of Aotearoa, and has detected over 1400 cancers and thousands of pre-cancerous polyps since it began in 2017.

“The launch of this campaign follows the Government’s Budget 2022 investment to lower the starting age for Māori and Pacific peoples participating in the bowel screening programme to 50 years,” Aupito William Sio said.

“A national roll out of the lower age range will take part progressively across the country from July 2023. This is an important step towards addressing a health inequity, as a higher proportion of Māori and Pacific people get bowel cancer before they become eligible for screening at age 60.”

“Today’s campaign has been specifically developed alongside Māori and Pacific communities, to help encourage bowel screening participation where it has been lower in the past,” Peeni Henare said.

“It has a simple message – bowel screening is free, quick and easy, and you can do it at home. Early screening can save your life, so do it for yourself and for everyone else as well.”

“During the development and research many people spoke about how cancer and bowel cancer has affected themselves or their loved ones. They said it was important to openly discuss bowel cancer and bowel screening so people are encouraged to do the test,” Aupito William Sio said.

"Some in our Pacific communities may feel reluctant to discuss bowel screening when it involves discussing some awkward topics, but I hope we can overcome our fears for the sake of saving the lives of our loved ones.

“Feedback from the research and testing was to use real people – not actors; involve whānau and aiga; and don’t be afraid to make it funny.

“The campaign developed reflects Māori and Pacific colour, vibrancy, whānau and aiga values, and humour. There is even a campaign song from the Howie Morrison Jnr Trio – There’s a screening here tonight,” Aupito William Sio said.