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The SDHB's new Champions' Campaign features eight well-known people from the South to encourage more people to take part in the National Bowel Screening Programme.
Health Minister David Clark, who officially launched the campaign at Southland Hospital yesterday, said the programme, which would reach more than 50,000 Southern residents, was of particular importance to the district due to high cancer rates.
''It's anticipated that around 100 people over the first two years of the programme running will have cancer picked up early and that will mean better quality of life, and in many cases will mean that people's lives will be saved,'' Dr Clark said.
''We know screening saves lives, but the challenge is to get people to do the screening, return the tests and so on, and that's what these champions are pushing for.''
Ex-All Black Leicester Rutledge, who was chosen as one of the champions, said he was affected by bowel cancer when his own father died as a result of the disease.
After dealing with his own cancer, he realised the importance of screenings.
''For me it's about being aware of what may be inside your body.
''I'm just very aware that it's a gene that could be in the family and I'm trying to be as proactive as I can,'' he said.
Other champions include Tom Franklin, Matapura Ellison, Rachel Elder, Shona Fordyce, Ken Bowie, Cyril Gilroy, and Lex Chisholm.