Health officials in Thunder Bay are nodding their heads in agreement with Ontario's Auditor General, whose report Wednesday called for more diabetes prevention and more cancer screening.

St. Joseph's Care Group president Tracy Buckler said she's not surprised Jim McCarter’s report identified that only three per cent of government funding for the Ontario Diabetes Strategy goes to prevention.

'If we were able to prevent some of those things ... we'd be really happy.'—Tracy Buckler, president and CEO, St. Joseph's Care Group

"Prevention ... is underfunded and we need to pay some attention to that as a system," she said.

By the time most patients get to the Diabetes Health program at St. Joseph's Care Group, they're already living with the disease, Buckler said.

"If we didn't have a waiting list for people ... that already had chronic diseases and, if we were able to prevent some of those things from happening, we'd be really happy."

The Auditor-General’s report also said too few people are being screened for colorectal cancer, which involves an at-home test using a stool sample kit.

The director of prevention and screening at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre said many patients don't have family doctors to give them the kit. And when people do get it, many don't complete the test. 

"It's got the 'icky' factor, but we know it's a very ... good test," Alison McMullen said.

She added all adults over 50 years of age should be screened and that, currently, only 28 per cent of eligible northwestern Ontario residents are tested.

McMullen said the northwest's breast cancer screening participation rates are better than the rest of the province, thanks to the mobile screening van that travels throughout the region.

Staff plan to use the same approach to boost colorectal screening.  Starting next spring, the mobile program will offer colorectal and cervical cancer screening tests.