Lower starting age for Māori and Pacific peoples

Waikato and Tairāwhiti are the first districts to introduce a lower starting age for Māori and Pacific people participating in bowel screening.

Funding of $36 million was announced in Budget 22 to shift the eligible start age from 60 to 50 years for these populations to address a health inequity. The official announcement was made via a press release from the Beehive.

The lower eligible age for Māori and Pacific people will be progressively introduced across the country, following an evaluative implementation in Waikato and Tairāwhiti. More information below.

Q&A on the lowering on the NBSP age range for Māori and Pacific peoples

Why is the age range being lowered to 50 years of age for Māori and Pacific peoples?

This is a step toward addressing an acknowledged health inequity. A higher proportion of bowel cancer occurs in Māori and Pacific peoples before they reach 60 (approximately 21 percent compared to 10 percent for non-Māori non-Pacific peoples). The younger overall age structure of the populations and current lower life expectancy also means fewer health gains from bowel screening under the current age range.

When will districts start to roll out the lower age range?

Te Whatu Ora Waikato and Tairāwhiti will begin to roll out the lower age range for Māori and Pacific peoples in late 2022/early 2023 in an evaluative implementation. The evaluation will assess how best to engage with this younger population to achieve high participation rates. The national target for bowel screening participation is 60 percent. The findings from the evaluative implementation will help inform the staged national roll out of the lower age range in other districts, which will begin in the second half of 2023.The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) will work with each district and agree on a proposed date to roll out age extension. Each district will undergo a modified readiness assessment.

What support will districts get to make the change?

We will work alongside each district to plan when they will join the age range extension and support them during implementation.

Will districts be given more funding for age extension?

Districts will receive funding for equity enhancing initiatives to engage with Māori and Pacific peoples above normal service delivery, including pre-reach and promotion to local communities. There will also be increased funding proportionate to forecasted increased colonoscopy volumes.

Who can I talk to about modelling numbers and readiness criteria?

Specific details about age extension relating to matters such as modelling numbers, funding and readiness have been sent directly to district bowel screening managers by NBSP relationship managers. Please talk to your relationship manager if you have further questions or would like further information.

What is the impact of the age extension expected to be?

As a result of this extension, 60,000 more people will be able to access screening every year. The initiative aims to increase the number of bowel cancers diagnosed at an earlier stage and in turn reduce the mortality rate and improve outcomes for Māori and Pacific peoples.

Why has this inequity not been addressed earlier?

It was important to complete the national implementation of a clinically safe and effective NBSP to ensure equity of access across the country, before adjustments to the eligible age critirea could be addressed. As soon as the programme was fully rolled out in May 2022 the focus shifted to remedying an acknowledged inequity.

Page last updated: 15 June 2022