Funding of $36 million was announced in Budget 22 to lower the eligible start age for bowel screening from 60 to 50 years for Māori and Pacific people to address a health inequity.

Te Whatu Ora Waikato was the first district to introduce a lower starting age for Māori and Pacific people participating in bowel screening, in November 2022, as part of an evaluative implementation.

Q&A on the lowering on the NBSP age range for Māori and Pacific peoples

Why is the age range being lowered to 50 years of age for Māori and Pacific peoples?

This is a step toward addressing an acknowledged health inequity. A higher proportion of bowel cancer occurs in Māori and Pacific peoples before they reach 60 (approximately 21 percent compared to 10 percent for non-Māori non-Pacific peoples). The younger overall age structure of the populations and current lower life expectancy also means fewer health gains from bowel screening under the current age range.

When will districts start to roll out the lower age range? 

The lower age range is in place in Te Whatu Ora Waikato, as part of an evaluative implementation. The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) will work with each district and agree on a proposed date to roll out age extension. Each district will undergo a modified readiness assessment. 

What support will districts get to make the change? 

We will work alongside each district to plan when they will join the age range extension and support them during implementation. 

Will districts be given more funding for age extension? 

Districts will receive funding for equity enhancing initiatives to engage with Māori and Pacific peoples above normal service delivery, including pre-reach and promotion to local communities. There will also be increased funding proportionate to forecasted increased colonoscopy volumes. 

Who can I talk to about modelling numbers and readiness criteria? 

Specific details about age extension relating to matters such as modelling numbers, funding and readiness have been sent directly to district bowel screening managers by NBSP relationship managers. Please talk to your relationship manager if you have further questions or would like further information. 

What is the impact of the age extension expected to be? 

As a result of this extension, 60,000 more people will be able to access screening every year. The initiative aims to increase the number of bowel cancers diagnosed at an earlier stage and in turn reduce the mortality rate and improve outcomes for Māori and Pacific peoples. 

Why has this inequity not been addressed earlier? 

It was important to complete the national implementation of a clinically safe and effective NBSP to ensure equity of access across the country, before adjustments to the eligible age criteria could be addressed. As soon as the programme was fully rolled out in May 2022 the focus shifted to remedying an acknowledged inequity.