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World expert endorses New Zealand’s bowel screening approach

World expert endorses New Zealand’s bowel screening approach
21 June 2017

The Ministry of Health has welcomed the endorsement of New Zealand’s soon-to-be-implemented National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) by a world expert.

The programme is being phased in throughout the country over the next three years, starting with Hutt Valley and Wairarapa District Health Boards next month.

Dr Linda Rabeneck, Global Chair of the World Endoscopy Organization (WEO) Colorectal Cancer Screening Committee, says because New Zealand has one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the world, introducing a bowel screening programme is a health priority.

She says, “Screening is the key to diagnosing bowel cancer early, when treatment is less arduous and more likely to result in a cure of the disease.”

Dr Rabeneck, who is also chair of the international Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association, says the decision-making underpinning New Zealand’s first bowel screening programme is rigorous and evidence-based.

“The New Zealand team has designed and planned the National Bowel Screening Programme with great thought and care, taking into account the New Zealand context, scientific evidence, and the experience of other jurisdictions who have already rolled out colorectal screening programmes.”

The development of the NBSP follows a successful pilot programme run by Waitemata District Health Board. Dr Rabeneck says the findings from the pilot have been very informative in helping to set the parameters for the national programme, including the decision to initially offer screening to people aged 60 to 74.

“The roll-out with this older age group provides the flexibility to expand the target age group over time, as experience with the programme accrues. In addition, it is this older age group that contributes about 80% of all people with a new diagnosis of the disease. In this way the programme targets those at highest risk.”

The endorsement by Dr Rabeneck has been welcomed by the Clinical Director of the National Bowel Screening Programme, Dr Susan Parry.

“We’ve spent years developing this screening programme and a huge amount of work has gone into ensuring that it can be delivered safely and effectively. It is wonderful to receive this statement of support from Dr Linda Rabeneck – a well-respected international expert in this area.

“Every year, more than 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer and more than 1200 die from it. Regular bowel screening can help save lives by finding bowel cancer at an early stage, when it can often be successfully treated.

“The roll-out of the National Bowel Screening Programme is a significant health milestone for New Zealand. We are now on the cusp of launching a programme which we know will save lives.”

For further information on the National Bowel Screening Programme, including who is eligible and how to do the test, go to

(Note: Dr Linda Rabeneck’s name is pronounced: rab-ih-neck)


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