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Southern residents in spotlight to help save lives

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National Bowel Screening Programm

The Minister of Health Dr David Clark officially launched a new promotional campaign today, at Southland Hospital, to help save more lives through the National Bowel Screening Programme.

The new Southern DHB Champions’ Campaign features eight individuals from all corners of the Southern community, each of whom has shared their own personal and moving story, to help encourage others to take positive steps for their health through bowel screening.

The multi-media campaign has been created as a way to engage more people in the Southern community to take part in the national programme.

The Programme is currently being rolled out to over 51,000 Southern residents aged 60 – 74 years of age. Over 100 cases of bowel cancer are expected to be diagnosed in this period.  Most will be in the early stages, when the disease is easier to treat.

The campaign will run via print adverts, on the backs of buses and in online videos, in an effort to connect with the Southern region’s diverse communities, and encourage more people to take the free health test.

Featuring within the champions line up are some current and ex-rugby players: Tom Franklin, the Highlanders’ lock who is currently playing in Japan, has stepped up to be part of the campaign. Tom lost his dad, his brother and grandfather to cancer and wants to encourage others to not be complacent about their bowel health, so that they can be around for their family for longer.  

Ex-All Black Leicester Rutledge joins ex-Southland rugby player Lex ‘Chis’ Chisholm, as they reminisce about the good old rugby days, as well as realise how cancer has impacted the lives of many of their team mates and their own families.

Other high-profile champions include Dunedin City Councillor, Rachel Elder, who lost her brother Hugh to bowel cancer recently. Rachel shares memories of Hugh and the importance of families talking about their health issues, to help prepare others to be more proactive about their own health.

Southern DHB’s Dunedin-based Kaumatua and Ngāi Tahu Vice Chair, Matapura Ellison shares his uplifting story about his father, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at aged 82 and, after successful treatment, went on to live another 18 years of full life.

Invercargill Murihiku Marae Kaumatua Cyril Gilroy, and Colac Bay Kuia and ex-nurse Shona Fordyce also emphasise the importance of looking after your personal health for you and your whānau’s wellbeing. Shona’s husband Erle had bowel cancer, and she shares her memories of his life and struggle in her emotive video. The bowel screening pilot programme in Waitemata had found that Māori were less likely to participate than New Zealand European, in bowel screening, and they often present far later with symptoms to their health provider, underscoring the importance of whānau supporting one another to take the test.

Invercargill resident Ken Bowie also shares stories from his unique shed about his own experience of bowel cancer 18 years ago and how, since making a full recovery, he has been busy travelling the world and being an active member of his community.

The videos are available to view on the Southern DHB website here:

“We are so lucky to have these wonderful champions from our Southern communities coming together to help us raise awareness of what a difference this screening programme can make to our residents,” said Emma Bell, Programme Manager.

 “Already over 5,000 kits have been mailed out to Southern residents and around two thirds have been returned for testing. With this campaign, we hope to see that number rise, and so we encourage everyone to help us share our Champions’ unique and touching stories, in the hope that it will help more people take the screening test.”

The adverts and videos are set against a mix of iconic locations around the Otago and Southland locations such as Colac Bay, Karitane beach, Invercargill’s Rugby Park and the Dunedin City Council Chambers, to help capture the special connection the Champions have to their own community.

About the National Bowel Screening Programme

  • The National Bowel Screening Programme is free for people aged 60 to 74 years who are eligible for public healthcare
  • Invitations 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 will be sent an invitation around the time of their birthdate: those with an even birthdate (e.g. 2nd August) will be contacted between now and April 2019, those with an odd birthdate (e.g. 3rd August) will be contacted between April 2019 and April 2020
  • Those turning 60 will receive an invitation around the time of their birthday, regardless of their birthdate
  • People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90% chance of long term survival
  • People are being asked to make sure their details are up to date with their GP so they don’t miss out
  • For more information visit or call freephone 0800 924 432