Saving Lives By Raising Awareness: Community Partnership Outreach Campaign Aims to Eliminate Hep B

News headlines are often made about the race to find a cure for a disease in time to save lives.  But imagine if a disease had a cure, and very few people knew about it. The challenge here isn’t to unlock the cure, but rather, to spread the word about the cure.

This scenario isn’t fictional. In fact, it is the very reason behind Peninsula Health Care District’s involvement in the expanded Hepatitis B (Hep B) outreach campaign. This initiative is a joint partnership, led by SF Hep B Free Bay Area, with San Mateo County, Stanford Health Care, Asian Liver Center, the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, the Silicon Valley Lions Club; and Chinese Hospital.

Hep B is a potentially deadly virus that disproportionately affects Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. It affects 1 in 12 Asian Pacific Islanders in the United States. In fact, some two-thirds of those with chronic infections don’t know they are infected.

San Mateo County alone accounts for approximately 200,000 people at risk of contracting liver cancer from undetected chronic Hep B infections. Asian Pacific Islanders make up 1 in 4 San Mateo residents and Daly City has the highest concentration of API residents of any large city in the continental US (58 percent). Millbrae and Foster City are not far behind with API populations above 40 percent.

With these statistics in mind, there is no time to waste. Raising awareness about Hep B can ultimately mean that someone might be able to avoid liver cancer or a transplant. In fact, the Bay Area has the highest rate of liver cancer in the nation, 80 percent caused by Hep B. If untreated, 1 in 4 of those with chronic Hep B develop liver cancer or serious liver disease often resulting in death.

Translation: Many people have a disease that could actually kill them simply because they don’t know about it. This is where this joint community initiative comes in.

“We can eliminate this disease by educating the public and health care providers. By providing access to screening, vaccination and treatment.  We can make a real difference and save lives,” said Lawrence Cappel, Ph.D, PHCD board chair.

The plan is to offer free blood tests, which can screen for the virus, and develop an outreach and education program to reach the county’s at-risk residents. PHCD and its partners will also work with physicians in the county to ensure they are incorporating best practices into their care.

Simple steps such as a daily pill can prevent further complications with the virus, such as liver cancer. The outreach effort will aim to touch community groups with high concentrations of Asian Pacific Islanders, such as faith-based organizations, to share information on free screening opportunities.

The initiative also has a goal to reach at least 100 San Mateo County physicians with education on how the disease can be prevented, detected, and treated. One important component is testing pregnant mothers for the disease. This critical step can prevent the disease from spreading generation to generation.

Bill Gates has often been quoted as saying that treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable. It is exciting that we can now imagine a future without Hep B. Together, we can take steps to raise awareness amongst the public and physicians. Ultimately, we hope to save lives and end this disease once and for all.

If you would like to learn more about this initiative, would like to inquire about education or screening opportunities, please contact Richard So, program coordinator, Hep B Free-Bay Area at 650-804-0021 or Richard.so@sfhepbfree-bayarea.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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