Background and Context: The Australian National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) commenced in 2006 with two age cohorts (55 and 65 year olds) invited to screening. Further age cohorts were added over time and the program currently invites 50, 55, 60 and 65 year olds to screening via a centralized mailed invitation and faecal occult blood test. The Australian Government has recently committed to full implementation of a biennial screening interval by 2020.
Aim: To outline progress, to date, of the program including: the staging of the introduction of age cohorts, the challenges in early implementation, and recent evidence on program outcomes in cancer down staging and mortality; and
To explore key issues in achieving biennial screening including: addressing colonoscopy qualilty; increasing participation through better engagement of GPs and targeted communication; and tackling the needs of underscreened groups.
Strategy/Tactics: The goal of the NBCSP is to reduce morbidity and mortality from bowel cancer through screening for early detection or prevention of the disease. The Australian Government is leading implementation of biennial screening with advice from Australian experts, learned colleges, State and Territory colleagues, the AIHW and Cancer Council Australia
Programme/Policy Process: The NBCSP is the only Australian national screening program that is centrally directed and administered by the Australian Government. Major policy decisions are made by the Minister for Health.
Outcomes/What was learned: The phased implementation of the program since 2006 has had implications for consumer and health professional confidence and participation. However, the available outcome data which will be presented at Congress show that the program is already achieving reductions in morbidity and mortality from bowel cancer.
Continued success as we progress towards biennial screening will require a renewed commitment from all stakeholders to planning, governance, collaboration, risk management and communication. It also requires leadership, courage and commitment.