Whanganui District Health Board is aiming for the highest bowel screening rates for Māori across the country.
The national bowel screening programme began in Whanganui on October 22 and improving health outcomes for Māori will be a key focus locally.
Over the next two years around 12,000 people aged 60 to 74 from the Whanganui region will be invited to participate in bowel screening. It is expected that around 25 cases of bowel cancer will be found.
Whanganui District Health Board (DHB), which covers Whanganui, most of Rangitikei and Ruapehu, and parts of South Taranaki, is the ninth DHB to join the free screening programme, with Māori a target population.
Whanganui DHB's director of Māori health, Rowena Kui, said 1679 Māori in the DHB area were eligible for the programme and high screening rates were a priority.
"In order to achieve this, we have worked alongside the five kaupapa Māori health services across our district," Kui said.
"Our focus has been to raise awareness of bowel cancer and promote our screening programme to Māori in their communities; to engage them and their whānau in understanding and participating in the programme.
"We are committed to the screening programme and achieving the best outcome for our communities, and are hopeful we can achieve the highest screening participation rates for Māori in the country."
Whanganui's bowel screening project manager Ben McMenamin has made presentations at hui across the region, and has attended a series of events, using a giant inflatable bowel as a hard-to-miss prop.
He acknowledged the support of iwi service providers Te Oranganui (Whanganui), Mokai Patea Services (Taihape), Te Kotuku Hauora o Rangitikei (Marton), Ngati Rangi Community Health Centre (Ohakune) and Te Puke Karanga Hauora (Raetihi) in helping to spread the message.
"Whanganui Cancer Society has also helped with promotion, consumer consultation and training people to use the inflatable bowel," McMenamin said.
Whanganui GP John McMenamin is the Ministry of Health's bowel screening lead for primary healthcare, and he was thrilled to see the programme launching in the Whanganui DHB region.
"There may be no warning that you have bowel cancer, so doing the bowel screening test is an easy way to identify that something might be wrong," he said.
"I will be encouraging all patients in the 60-74 year age group to complete their kit when it arrives in the mail."
Screening every two years can save lives by helping find the cancer early when it can often be successfully treated. People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90 per cent chance of long-term survival.