NZ moving 'fatally slow' to combat bowel cancer - Sir David Skegg

Medical researcher Sir David Skegg says the Ministry of Health has moved "fatally slow" to provide bowel cancer screening services, costing hundreds of Kiwis their lives.

Speaking to Newshub Nation about his new book, The Health of the People, Skegg said the rollout of bowel cancer screening services is dangerously overdue when compared to other developed countries.

"The United Kingdom and Australia introduced their national programmes in 2006. We’re hoping to have our programme rolled out nationally by the end of 2021.

"At the moment, about 100 New Zealanders are dying every year unnecessarily, in my view, because they would not have died if we had introduced screening at the same time as the UK."

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of the disease in the developed world, with around 3000 Kiwis diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, of which around 1200 die.

Skegg says the screening is just one example of how our public health system has become "dangerously run-down".

He points to the recent measles outbreak, with 10 cases confirmed in Auckland and 37 in Canterbury, as another symptom of a failing system.

"We don't really have a proactive approach to public health problems in New Zealand. The Ministry of Health doesn't have a critical mass of public health specialists.

"I think it is really concerning that an outbreak of this scale has occurred in New Zealand. And so I certainly hope the Ministry of Health will learn some lessons from it."

Watch the video.

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