Back to top anchor

Brought to you by Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora – Southern and WellSouth primary health network

Open main menu Close main menu
Reverend Tau Ben-Unu, Presbyterian Minister and bowel cancer survivor

Bowel Screening Champions: Speaking from the heart creates change

They speak of love and of loss but most of all they encourage people to take part in the national Bowel Screening Programme.  

Campaign type:

Since 2018 the Bowel Screening Champions’ messages of early detection and using the programme’s home test kit has been having a positive impact.  

Te Whatu Ora Southern Bowel Screening Manager Emma Bell says the region consistently has among the highest rates of participation in programme in the country and participation rates for Māori and Pacifika are also well above the national average.  

“Many of the champions have experienced bowel cancer, either themselves or through whānau members. They speak from the heart about the impact bowel cancer has and why early detection is so important.  

“If bowel cancer is found early, people have a 95 per cent chance of survival,” she says.  

Since screening started 337 people have been diagnosed with bowel cancer and most at an early stage in the southern region.  

“We hoped that people would use the self-screening tests at home if they were encouraged by someone they knew and respected. For example, “if my kaumatua/minister is saying I should do it (take the test), then I’ll do it”.   

“We’ve videoed champions from Invercargill to Dunedin and we have used a variety of community leaders who have shared their stories.”  

National Bowel Screening Programme South Island Equity Lead Janice Donaldson says the southern champions really resonated with communities.  

“Something unique is that the champions have been very happy to stay engaged for an extended period of time with the programme and that helps to make their messages relevant and effective,” Janice says.  

In 2024, new Champions will be added to promote the lowering of the screening age for Māori and Pasifika from 60 to 50 years old.  

“It’s been a privilege to welcome our new champions on board. A higher proportion of bowel cancer occurs in Māori and Pacific people before they reach 60. We know that people in their 50s have busy lives, they are working, looking after children and grandchildren and supporting their older parents,” Emma says.   

“They may not see health as a priority, particularly if they feel well and don’t have any obvious symptoms but we need to take care of ourselves to be able to take care of others,” she says.  

“Our new champions are helping to reinforce the message that our health is important and to be around to have a long life and to support whānau, we must be pro-active in looking after ourselves”, she says.  

Image: Reverend Tau Ben-Unu, Presbyterian Minister and bowel cancer survivor

Did you know?  

  • 146,363 kits have been sent out
  • 100,335 kits returned
  • 4494 positive results 
  • 3646 colonoscopies undertaken 
  • 338 cancers detected