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Family supports Bowel Screening Programme

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A beautiful photo has an important message behind it for Southlander Lisa Tou-McNaughton (Kūki Āirani).  

Lisa’s family has come on board as one of the new Bowel Screening Champions for Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora Southern to help promote and raise awareness around the importance of the National Bowel Screening Programme.  

This is the sixth year that the National Bowel Screening Programme has been running and is free for those aged 60 to 74 years eligible for public healthcare.  

“Family is everything. In 2022, we lost our beautiful Mum who in the past battled bowel cancer. We are doing it (becoming community champions) for her,” Lisa says.  

Lisa Tou-McNaughton Bowel Screening Champion

New Bowel Screening Champion Lisa Tou-McNaughton, left, with her niece Chantelle Perry, sister Melanie Tou and brother Mike Tou. Chantelle is holding a photo of their Nana/Mum Janice. The family has come together to raise awareness in the community about the important of participating in the bowel screening programme.

Former Health NZ Southern Programme Clinical Lead Dr Jason Hill remarked, “we are grateful to our established Champions and welcome our new Champions, who continue to inspire others with their personal stories to increase awareness and ensure participation rates remain some of the highest in the country.”  

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

Southern Bowel Screening manager Emma Bell says we have videoed champions from Invercargill to Dunedin and we have used a variety of community leaders who have shared their stories.  

“We hoped that people would use the National Bowel Screening test kit 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’,” Emma says.  

People with busy lives 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.”  

The new champions also include: Hokonui Rūnanga Executive Co-ordinator Terry Nicholas; Joe Clarke, of Awarua Whānau Services; Mauraka Edwards and Myra Tipa, Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki; and Peter Ellison, Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki; Director of Māori Health & Equity, WellSouth. 

The Southern Bowel Screening Programme continues to have one of the highest overall participation rates in the country, Emma says.  

As of May 20, 111,585 of the 162,413 kits sent to Southern residents had been returned, with 4866 positive results. 364 people had been diagnosed with bowel cancer through the programme.

To learn more about Southern's Bowel Screening Champions head to

 About the National Bowel Screening Programme   

  • Screening can detect cancer at an early stage when it can often be successfully treated   

  • Screening is free for those aged 60 to 74 years of age who are eligible for public healthcare   

  • Invitations and test kits for those eligible to participate are sent through the mail.  

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

  • 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.  

Bowel cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand   

  • Aotearoa New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the developed world.

  • More than 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and more than 1,200 die from it annually.

  • Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in this country.

  • People who are diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage have a much greater chance of being successfully treated.    

Visit for more information or call 0800 924 432