A conversation about Bowel Screening could save your life

When Sally Maoate sits down to talk with someone about bowel screening she knows the conversation could very well save that person’s life.

As a Kaitakawaenga for the Bowel Screening Programme, it’s her job to educate and encourage people to participate in the national bowel screening programme.

Sally is one of three in the Bowel Screening Programme Outreach team at Te Whatu Ora Te Matau a Māui Hawke’s Bay, working alongside Liz Morley and Sherly Galbraith. They are also supported by Pasifika team members Silia Momoisea and Finehika Veikoso.

The team are celebrating four years since the national Bowel Screening Programme was rolled out across the region.

Since its launch in Hawke’s Bay, a total of 57,737 kits have been posted out to eligible residents aged between 60 and 74, with 33,503 kits returned. Of those, 1,520 people returned positive results requiring more investigation and 83 cancers were detected.

All eligible Hawke's Bay residents are automatically enrolled in the programme and sent pre-invitation letters sent via a birth date system, however not all choose to participate and it’s Sally and her team who encourage more people to take the free test.

“We are working hard to raise the 48 and 41 percent Māori and Pasifika participation rates to be on par with the overall participation rate of 62 percent of the eligible population in Hawke’s Bay.”

“We visit homes, marae, churches and community events to educate as many people as possible. The programme saves lives by detecting bowel cancer early when it can be successfully treated so if we can get that message through to just one person that’s potentially a life saved.”

The team is often told by people reluctant to take the test that they “feel fine” and “would rather not know if they had cancer.”

Mrs Maoate wants people to understand that not everyone experiences symptoms, but screening could detect cancers earlier and allows for precancerous polyps to be removed, which in the medium to long term reduces the incidence of bowel cancer.

“Do it for your whānau – and your mokopuna.”

The team recently completed a successful education session with Taradale Intermediate School with feedback revealing the group of 20 students involved had gone on to have 115 discussions with friends and whānau as a result.

“We realise just how powerful the mokopuna voice is as most grandparents will do anything for their mokopuna and that resonates with me.”

Mrs Maoate is passionate about what she says is meaningful work.

“It’s an important conversation we’re having with people as it could save their life and we’re humbled to be part of that.”

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world and it kills more than 1200 people every year. Anyone with symptoms such as bleeding from the bottom or blood in their poo, a change in bowel habits lasting more than six weeks, stomach pain which can be severe, any lumps or mass in your tummy or weight loss and tiredness, should see their doctor. 

“Don’t delay, test today,” Mrs Maoate says.

Call 0800 924 432 or visit www.timetoscreen.co.nz for more information.


Pictured: Te Whatu Ora Hawke’s Bay’s Bowel Screening Programme Outreach team from left: Liz Morley, Sally Maoate and Sherly Galbraith.

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