Creative approach working for breast screening in the Far North

Kaitaia street march to promote Breast Screening
The Kaitaia march is an example of an innovative approach to breast screening in Northland.
Creativity and an integrated approach to enrolling Māori women in breast screening is paying off in Northland.

In 2006, 30 percent of eligible women aged 45 – 69 had had a mammogram through the BSA programme in Northland.  Coverage had risen to 70 percent by the end of 2012, including for Māori women.

Barbara Miller, operations manager with BreastScreen Waitemata Northland (BSWN), says this is an amazing achievement considering the geographical and social barriers for women in Northland.

A whole-of-community approach involving local Māori health providers, GP practices, primary health organisations (PHOs), pharmacies, communities, staff across BSWN and the women themselves have made this possible.

“The big challenge is to maintain that momentum and to keep helping Māori women in particular and those in very remote areas to be screened when our mobile van turns up,” says Barbara Miller. “The recent street march in Kaitaia organised by Faye Price is a fantastic example of an innovative approach.”

The mobile van visits 13 northern communities over a two-year period, with an eligible population of 26,850 women, including 6350 Māori women.

Kelly Scott-Ritchie, health promotion coordinator in Northland, organises meetings prior to each mobile van visit to set goals and discuss strategies.  Faye Price came up with the idea of a street march at the recent Kaitaia meeting.

“Engaging with the community is an essential part of what we do,” says Kelly Scott-Ritchie.  “They’re our link to the women we’re trying to recruit.  They often know the women personally, know their circumstances and what’s preventing them from coming.”

As well as having to travel for screening, she says anxiety about what they may find as a result of screening is a barrier for some women, coupled with fear about experiencing pain during the screening process.  The staff in the mobile van go to great lengths to help women feel at ease during screening, she says.

Kaitaia street march (story by Te Hauora o te Hiku o Te Ika Trust)

The Kaitaia street march was organised by Faye Price, Breast Screening Kaimahi for Te Hauora o te Hiku o Te Ika Trust, Kaitaia and supported by the Northland DHB, Ngati Hine Health Trust, Mauri Ora Clinic – Whangarei, Moko Clinic – Kaitaia, Shackleton’s Amcal Chemist, Kaitaia, Te Hauora o Te Hiku Pharmacy and GPs.

Approximately 30 supporters gathered for the march through the main street of Kaitaia on 14 February 2013. They were joined en route and at their destination by another 60 or so supporters including Te Rautahi Trust Men's Group against violence.

T-shirts, spot prizes (which included resources) were handed out to the public and there were shouts of encouragement and tooting of horns as the march progressed through the town’s main street. The march also featured in the local newspaper.

At the end of the march, supporters listened to, cheered and supported speeches with the message 'early detection and treatment can save lives'.

Faye and her supporters then paid an impromptu visit to the local housie hall, where there was a spontaneous question and answer session about breast screening, with spot prizes awarded for correct answers. Those at the housie hall, who were mainly over 45 years of age, were delighted by the visit.

Overall, the march was a great success and Faye is looking forward to doing it all again next year and has put out a challenge to all breast screening services around New Zealand to march from Cape Reinga to the Bluff – pending the condition of her hips!!

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Page last updated: 30 April 2013