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Ak Uni Epidemiologists Join Cervical Cancer Audit

11 February 2002

University Of Auckland Epidemiologists Join Cervical Cancer Audit

Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi today commended progress on the Audit of Invasive Cervical Cancers and welcomed the news that three epidemiologists from the University of Auckland are working on the Audit.

"Having the expertise of the University of Auckland's, Department of Community Health, involved in this vital project represents an important achievement for the Audit Team. The University's team led by Professor Rod Jackson joins a strong team of experts working on the Audit.

"In addition Dr Bernadette Mullin, a public health physician has recently taken up the role of public health and clinical leader for the audit. Dr Mullin was closely involved in the establishment of the breast screening programme in 1998. International expert cytopathologist Dr Gabriele Medley, who reviewed the Colleen Poutsma case, joined the Audit team in December 2001 and is advising on the slide review process to be used," Dr Poutasi said.

The aim of the Audit is to improve the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP). Responsibility for the Audit was transferred to the National Screening Unit (NSU) in January last year. Since then the NSU has been establishing the project team and undertaking the Audit's key planning and design work, which has now been completed.

"I had the opportunity to visit the Audit team in Auckland two weeks ago and was impressed with the progress that has been made. It is clear that the right foundations have been put in place for the start of the Audit-proper. These foundations are imperative if the Audit is to be successful.

"The Audit will help us further improve the NCSP for New Zealand women and will add to the quality assurance mechanisms that have been put in place during the past three years to strengthen the Programme. These include comprehensive quality standards and ongoing routine monitoring. In addition a screening workforce development strategy and a detailed information booklet for women are currently being developed.

"This month the NSU will submit an application to all Ethics Committees. This is an important step. We expect Ethics Committee approval by early April and the Audit will start immediately after that. In the meantime the team will continue work on the pre-requisite phases of the Audit focusing on the establishment of detailed audit processes and the preparation of material for interviewers.

"In November Dr Euphemia McGoogan acknowledged the large amount of work that had been done prior to her arrival, but expressed a concern that the Audit-proper had not yet begun. I am confident that she will be impressed with the continuing thoroughness that has marked the set-up of the Audit, when she next returns to New Zealand.

"The planning and design phase of the Audit determined that between 300 and 350 women, their GPs and specialists will be contacted by case managers and asked to participate in the Audit. For the Audit to be effective it is important that there is a high level of participation and I encourage women who are contacted to agree to participate. That participation will make a significant contribution to the quality testing of the programme.

"It is important to remember that the NCSP has been extremely successful in its objective to reduce the rate of incidence and death from cervical cancer. In the ten years from 1987 ? 1997 cervical cancer rates have dropped by 39 per cent. Over the same period the death rate for cervical cancer dropped by 44 per cent. These statistics show that the anticipated "epidemic of cervical cancer" has been averted. However we want to continually improve the programme and the Cancer Audit will help us pin point areas where we should focus attention," Dr Poutasi said.


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