Regions announced for the introduction of lower bowel screening age for Māori and Pacific people

Tuesday, June 21, 2022 - 17:56

Waikato and Tairāwhiti have been selected as the first regions to introduce a lower starting age later this year for Māori and Pacific people participating in bowel screening.

Funding of $36 million was announced in Budget 22 to shift the eligible start age for Māori and Pacific people from 60 to 50 years. Dr Jane O’Hallahan, National Screening Unit Clinical Lead, says the change is being made to address a health inequity.

‘Under the current age range, a higher proportion of Māori and Pacific people get bowel cancer before they become eligible for screening at age 60. In addition, the younger overall age structure of the populations and current lower life expectancy also means they have fewer years to gain from bowel screening under the current eligible age range.’ 

The two regions are expected to introduce the earlier starting age in the last quarter of 2022, before it is progressively rolled out nationally from July 2023.

Waikato and Tairāwhiti have been selected to pilot the age change because of their high Māori or Pacific populations, staffing resources and colonoscopy capacity. They will trial and evaluate different ways to engage and encourage participation for Māori and Pacific, aged 50 to 59, to inform the roll out of the lower age nationwide.

Dr O’Hallahan says an extra 60,000 people will be added to the National Bowel Screening Programme as a result of the initiative.

‘We expect this age adjustment to result in earlier cancer detection and improved health outcomes for Māori and Pacific people.’

Bowel screening is now available to around 835,000 New Zealanders, with the recent completion of the five year rollout of the programme.

Page last updated: 21 June 2022