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Published Friday 7 Jun 2024

Meet Maria Eneliko, Pacific Bowel Screening Programme Co-ordinator

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month. Bowel cancer is one of Aotearoa’s most common cancers and regular bowel screening can help save lives by finding the cancer at an early stage where it can most often be treated.

We talk to Maria Eneliko to learn more about her role, as well as the National Bowel Screening Programme.

Tell us about your role and goals

I oversee and co-ordinate bowel screening initiatives within Pacific communities across Capital, Coast an

d Hutt Valley. My focus is to engage and support Pacific communities as they are at higher risk. By prioritising regular screening for eligible people (aged 60-74 in our region) and raising awareness, we can make significant steps in reducing the impact of bowel cancer on individuals and our communities.

It’s important to recognise the diverse backgrounds of pacific communities and I focus on educating through events and reaching out to our kaiga in a respectful manner. My goal is to identify areas for improving participation rates for our Pacific communities who are not always confident to take part.

My personal experience with losing family members to cancer has heightened my awareness of the importance of cancer screening and early detection. I feel a strong desire to prevent others from experiencing similar losses by promoting screening initiatives within our Pacific communities.

“By placing family and community at the centre of my work as a Bowel Screening Coordinator, I can create more inclusive, responsive, and effective approach to promoting bowel screening and improving health outcomes for all especially our higher risk pacific population.”

What would you like people to know about bowel screening?

Bowel screening is a powerful tool for early detection and prevention of bowel cancer. It’s important for individuals to take advantage of the screening available to them.

The free at-home test is simple to do and every two years people from ages 60-74 are automatically sent a free bowel screening test kit, with an invitation letter and consent form, in the post.

Find out more here at doing the test, including videos in 11 different languages.

What is your career background?

I have a teaching background, with various experiences working in diverse communities especially around young children. Moving to the Children’s Ward in the Hutt Hospital as a Hospital Play Therapist, I brought creativity, compassion and resilience to my work.

My recent role as a child oral Health Coordinator for Bee Healthy regional Dental Service, demonstrates a shift towards promoting children’s health and well-being from a preventive perspective.

Overall my career reflects a passion for making a positive impact on our children’s lives (olaga o fanau) whether through education (akoakoga), healthcare (ola malolo) or preventive (puipuiga) services.

Expanding my focus to include adults now allows me to apply my skills and expertise to a broader range of populations and settings. Whether I provide education, support, or advocacy, my commitment to improving health outcomes and promoting wellbeing remains central to the work that I do especially for my Pacific kaiga (families).

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

One of the best pieces of advice is to embrace continuous learning and growth. Whether it’s acquiring new skills, gaining knowledge, or expanding your perspective, the journey of learning is unvaluable.

Do you have a hobby/talent you’de like to share?

I love going fishing with my husband, it such a wonderful way to spend time together and connect with nature.

Find out more about bowel screening

Every two years people from ages 60-74 are automatically sent a test kit in the post.

For more information about the programme including how to videos visit our timetoscreen website OR if you think you’re due to receive your test, phone Freephone -0800 924 43 or email the team at to order a new kit.

If you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer, it’s important you talk to your doctor. Find out more at About bowel cancer.