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Uniting to Combat Hepatitis B

Hep B United logoIn late May, during National Hepatitis Awareness Month, local coalitions from all over the country came together for the second Hep B United Summit. Hep B United Exit Disclaimer is a national campaign to raise awareness about hepatitis B and liver cancer; it is composed of 20 state and local coalitions Exit Disclaimer working together to combat this “silent epidemic.” Participants at the summit represented community-based organizations, health care providers, local and state health departments, academic institutions, public health researchers, policymakers, federal partners, and individuals living with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B in the U.S.

Hepatitis B is spread in several distinct ways: from mother to infant at the time of birth, through exposure to infected blood in household or health care settings, through sexual contact, and through injection drug use. Vaccinating people who do not have hepatitis B can prevent loved ones from getting infected. If left untreated, up to 25 percent of people with chronic hepatitis B will develop serious liver problems and even liver cancer. Sadly, hepatitis B-related liver cancer is a leading cause of death among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Hepatitis B affects around 2 million Americans, half of whom are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Two out of three of these individuals are not even aware that they are infected.

2014 Hep B United Summit
Summit participants developing Hep B United Community Action Plan

Summit participants

At the 2014 Hep B United Summit, driven by a shared mission to address this serious health disparity, local coalitions from states including Washington, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, Texas, Nevada, Hawaii, and New York, and other partners exchanged resources, best practices, and lessons learned to elevate awareness and understanding of hepatitis B and to increase testing and vaccination in the communities that they serve.

Hep B United partners came together at an opportune time as federal agencies are introducing a variety of resources that focus on addressing viral hepatitis.  Among these are new resources from the Know Hepatitis B campaign, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Viral Hepatitis previewed at the summit. Know Hepatitis B is a national communications campaign launched in 2013 in partnership with Hep B United. It features a number of education and awareness materials including PSAs, fact sheets, posters, and infographics in a variety of Asian languages.

Just a few weeks earlier, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a three-year update to the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (2014-2016). Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Director of the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, and Ms. Corinna Dan, the HHS Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor, participated in the summit. They discussed the updated Action Plan, its national goals, and the vital role that nonfederal stakeholders, like members of Hep B United, play in achieving those goals.

Hep B United Strategic Plan Aligned with National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan
Summit participants developing Hep B United Community Action Plan

Summit participants developing Hep B United Community Action Plan

Hep B United looks forward to participating in the implementation of the updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan. Similar to 2012 when Hep B United developed a community strategic plan Exit Disclaimer [PDF 110KB] aligned with the original Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, partners assembled at the Summit last month discussed the updated Action Plan’s national goals and developed an updated community plan with aligned priority areas. The template included in the Stakeholders’ Workbook was very helpful in guiding the discussion and in developing an updated community plan

Our updated community action plan focuses specifically on these priority areas:

  • Educate health care providers and communities to reduce health disparities
  • Improve testing, care, and treatment to prevent liver disease and cancer
  • Eliminate perinatal transmission of hepatitis B
  • Strengthen surveillance to detect viral hepatitis transmission and disease

Throughout the summit, coalition partners spoke of activities already underway that will contribute to meeting these national goals. These activities include successful community-based hepatitis B screening events, oftentimes held at health fairs or through churches and temples, successful strategies to help individuals living with chronic hepatitis B pay for their medication, the effective use of “relationship capital” to broker partnerships, and innovative approaches to educating the public about hepatitis B through Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean newspapers, radio, and television stations.

At the summit’s end, we left with the shared realization that although we are dispersed across the country and working in and with different communities, we are strongly united under a common mission. Coalition partners ended the three-day summit feeling supported by national champions as well as inspired and empowered knowing that as Hep B United – we can stop hepatitis B.

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