Trusted Turanga Health kaiāwhina Rhonda Pohatu, Mere Waihi, and Memory Taylor are helping whānau overcome any concerns associated with participating in the national bowel screening programme.
The screening programme aims to save lives by finding bowel cancer at an early stage when it can often be successfully treated.
Aotearoa New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Annually more than 3,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1,200 die.
Health providers in Te Tairāwhiti and Waikato are piloting a kanohi-ki-te-kanohi approach to the bowel screening programme. Rhonda, Mere, and Memory visit eligible whānau aged between 55 and 74 at their home and talk to them about the importance of doing the test and how to do it. Around the rest of the motu people eligible to participate in the programme receive their testing kit in the post.
Turanga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha says talking about topics related to the bowel can make some people feel embarrassed and so the role of the kaiāwhina is to help whānau overcome any feelings of awkwardness or discomfort.
“Talking about bowel cancer, tiko, and testing, might be considered tapu kaupapa but that’s where Rhonda, Mere and Memory’s close connections with whānau and kinship make a difference.”
And it is making a difference. Reweti confirms that the kanohi-ki-te-kanohi approach means more people are taking part. In the 12 months between July 2021 and June 2022, 673 whānau out of 815 (or 83 percent) visited by a Turanga Health kaiāwhina agreed to participate. In other places around Aotearoa New Zealand, where whānau receive the kit in the mail, uptake is much lower.
Rhonda and the other kaiāwhina hand deliver the test kit, have a korero, and then leave the kit with whānau. Rhonda says whānau will sometimes invite kaiāwhina off the doorstep and into their home to talk about bowel cancer and the test. It’s not unusual to have a cup of tea with whānau allowing more time to korero about the importance of the test.
The kaiāwhina return a few days later to pick it up the test and then they arrange for it to be sent to the laboratory for checking.
Rhonda, Mere, and Memory are hand delivering bowel screening testing kits to eligible whānau who live to the west of the Tūranganui River. They’re also visiting whānau in rural areas including Motu, Matawai, Whatatutu, Te Karaka, Patutahi, Tiniroto, Manutuke and Muriwai.
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