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Implementing the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan: The Role of Community Leadership

Isha Weerasinghe

Isha Weerasinghe

Kate Moraras, MPH, Director, Hep B United, Hepatitis B Foundation

Kate Moraras

The development of the updated national Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis: 2014-2016 [PDF 2.01MB] (Action Plan) in April 2014 marked a new opportunity for community-based organizations invested in eliminating hepatitis B and C disparities, to explore what activities federal agencies are planning to undertake and how the organizations and agencies can work together to address viral hepatitis. The Action Plan notes that further engaging the energy and expertise of new partners from both inside and outside of government is critical for successful implementation.

Since the release of the Action Plan, groups like Hep B United Exit Disclaimer (HBU) have used it as a framework to help guide their work on the ground. HBU, comprised of over 20 local alliances nationwide working to eliminate hepatitis B in high-risk populations, utilized the Stakeholders’ Workbook [DOC 854KB] that accompanied the release of the Action Plan as a starting point to develop a community strategic plan that complements the Action Plan. The Stakeholders’ Workbook [DOC 854KB] was created to assist partner organizations and coalitions to identify their own actionable opportunities by providing discussion questions based on the goals of the Action Plan.

Hep B United’s Strategic Plan Exit Disclaimer pulls from key priority areas noted in the Action Plan, and highlights HBU members’ areas of focus. Those areas are:

  1. community and provider education,
  2. improving testing and linkage to care to prevent hepatitis B-related liver disease and cancer,
  3. eliminating perinatal transmission of hepatitis B, and
  4. strengthening hepatitis B and C surveillance efforts.

HBU’s Strategic Plan will help the coalition align its activities in these areas, share best practices, and determine how to develop local programs that best address these shared national goals.

HBU also developed Opportunities for Federal-Community Collaboration to Reduce Disparities in Hepatitis B: 2014-2016 Exit Disclaimer [PDF 471 KB]. The complementary analysis highlights ways in which HBU members can collaborate in larger federal inter-agency efforts, and draws direct connections between the Action Plan and local hepatitis B-related activities. Ultimately, this document provides a framework that community organizations can utilize when meeting with federal agencies to discuss hepatitis B programs and infrastructure. Likewise, federal agencies can refer to the document and learn about what the community prioritizes within the Action Plan. Additionally, the analysis identifies objectives and recommendations for each of the six priority areas.

For example, in the area of strengthening surveillance, HBU identified a need for the development of more detailed information about population-specific health disparities in viral hepatitis prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment. The corresponding recommendation suggests that the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provide technical assistance to help local and national partners access data-sets like HRSA’s Uniform Data System (UDS). Another example stresses how local coalitions can incorporate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Know Hepatitis B materials into their activities to help raise awareness. The analysis includes many suggestions that explicitly highlight collaborative activities between federal agencies and community-based organizations. To help guide the reader, HBU also created an easy-to-read table that lists potential federal-community collaborative opportunities by federal agency.

It is our hope that these approaches and resources developed by Hep B United can serve as a model for other groups/coalitions addressing hepatitis B and C disparities, and help foster additional strategic partnerships to address viral hepatitis. The latest national Viral Hepatitis Action Plan helps us to better see what advancements we can make by working together to address viral hepatitis disparities. We believe we can achieve the goals of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan through stronger collaboration between the community and the government.