Revealed: Where our political parties stand on tackling breast cancer
All New Zealanders can now see where the country’s political parties stand on tackling breast cancer – the leading cause of death for New Zealand women under 65.
Today, Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ) is launching the new Breast Cancer Policy Scorecard to provide New Zealanders with accessible and up-to-date information about each party’s policies and proposed actions – or inactions – on breast cancer.
“In this election year, we want to make sure breast cancer is not forgotten about and that Kiwis have an accessible way of finding out the information that really matters,” says Justine Smyth, Chair of Breast Cancer Foundation NZ.
BCFNZ surveyed political parties on 13 questions covering the three main aspects of the breast cancer pathway – screening, diagnosis and treatment – as well as the overall context of the Pae Ora legislation and the Women’s Health Strategy.
While there is a lack of specificity in many of their answers, the charity’s assessment of the parties’ initial responses shows:
- National and the Green Party both unequivocally commit to extending the free breast screening programme to women aged 70 – 74 by quarter one of 2024. BCFNZ notes the work in recent months of National’s Dr Shane Reti, who has a Member’s Bill to legislate this extension.
- Labour’s current focus on the more than 270,000 people around New Zealand eligible for screening who are not getting a regular check is an important measure to get screening back up to 70% participation.
- Most parties commit to innovative technologies to improve breast screening. ACT MP Brooke van Velden’s Member’s Bill to create a medicines strategy to forecast new technologies would provide more accessible screening and timely diagnoses.
- The Green Party receives a “Supports” grade for 12 of the 13 policies and interventions put to them, and is the only party to clearly commit to Māori and Pacific women's breast screening beginning at age 40.
- NZ First receives a “Supports” grade for five policies and, along with the Greens, commits to funding two game-changing drugs for advanced breast cancer.
“Early detection through screening and timely diagnosis leads to higher survival and lower treatment costs. Prompt treatment and access to new medicines are a proven lifeline for those with more aggressive disease. Ensuring we have the right policy settings and sufficient funding to secure these things is vital to saving the lives of New Zealand women,” says Smyth.
“Given we have been campaigning for the screening age to be raised to 74 for the past six years, our main cause for concern from the survey responses is the lack of stronger commitment to doing this by early 2024. It’s easy, it’s cheap and it will save lives now.
“As the parties have not yet finalised their election manifestos, we’ll be surveying them again closer to the election and expect to see firmer commitments and more detail.
“We have a bold vision that one day, no women will die from breast cancer. For that to become a reality, we need bold political action. That’s why we’ll continue to advocate for policies, funding and initiatives that will lead to better health outcomes and help us reach zero deaths from breast cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand,” adds Smyth.
The Breast Cancer Policy Scorecard can be viewed at breastcancerfoundation.org.nz/election-scorecard