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Keeping ahead of advances in screening

Keeping ahead of advances in screening

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew says work is underway to ensure the most up-to-date practices are being used in our screening programmes.

“New Zealand has first class screening programmes and to ensure they stay that way it’s important that we’re proactively looking for new advances in screening technology and practices,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“For that reason the Ministry of Health’s National Screening Unit (NSU) is exploring options that might enhance our antenatal, newborn and cervical screening.”

For antenatal screening for Down syndrome and other conditions, consideration is being given to the role of Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT). This involves the testing of small amounts of foetal DNA circulating in maternal blood. Research indicates that NIPT is more accurate than current methods, which would reduce the number of women offered more invasive diagnostic tests.

Following an independent review, work is also underway to simplify the newborn hearing screening programme. The review recommended implementing a single screening test, rather than the current two, and standardising the equipment used. These changes should mean more sensitive and earlier detection of hearing loss in newborns, while reducing the inconvenience of outpatient appointments for families.

And a move to HPV primary screening is being considered for cervical screening. HPV primary screening is a different way of the laboratory examining a woman’s cervical screening test. For women, what happens at their appointment will not change, but as HPV screening is better read it may mean they do not need to be screened as often as every three years.

“These developments are very promising and could provide real benefits for New Zealand women and babies,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“I commend the NSU for the work it’s doing in this ever-changing landscape, and look forward to announcing further improvements.”


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