Community relationships key to high Māori breast screening participation rate

Outside the mobile unit, from left to right are receptionist Allison, Whaiora from Waihau Bay, and mammographer Wendy.
Outside the mobile unit, from left to right are receptionist Allison, Whaiora from Waihau Bay, and mammographer Wendy.
Local knowledge and support for the community are behind the high number of Māori women undergoing breast screening at Te Kaha and Waihau Bay on the East Coast of the North Island.

Whakatane kaimahi, breast and cervical screening services co-ordinator Sonia Stewart, who works with Te Puna Ora o Mataatua Charitable Trust, says recent visits by the mobile screening van to Waihou Bay and Te Kaha were again successful.  Te Puna Ora o Mataatua Charitable Trust provides a number of health services including support to services for breast screening and cervical screening.

“These were regular, scheduled visits by the breast screening team and we managed to have 90 to 95 percent of eligible women screened while the van was there,” she says. 

“These are very proactive communities which know the value of breast screening.”

The mobile van spent four days in Waihau Bay during January and screened 67 women.  In Te Kaha, 126 women were screened over a two-week period – 101 of these were Māori.  This number was more than the previous year.

“It’s a great result,” says Sonia Stewart.

She attributes the success to the small community and the local rural GP practice, Te Whanau a Apanui Community Health Clinic, which over time has formed good relationships with key stakeholders, including the mobile van screeners.  She says being from the area helps her to spread the word about the mobile van’s visit and to support both the local community and the visiting breast screening team.

“There are key messages put in the local rural GP practice panui/newsletter Horirerire, signs and posters put up at the kohanga reo, kura/schools, marae and shops,” she says.  “The GP practice rings around eligible women to inform and encourage them to be screened and Te Runanga o Te Whanau a Apanui helps with transporting ladies who live 30 or 40 minutes away.” Sonia also helps with transport if required.

“It’s all about having good relationships, trust, being informed and a collaborative, cohesive approach,” she says.  Women are getting to know the mammographers and they value a warm, friendly welcome when they step into the van.  It’s making a real difference to our breast screening rates.”

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Page last updated: 30 April 2013