(U.S. ASIAN WIRE) The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) and its partners convene today in Washington, D.C. to educate lawmakers and the public on the deadly impact of hepatitis B and hepatitis C. At noon, advocacy activities will culminate in the first national hepatitis and liver cancer prevention rally in Upper Senate Park, where hundreds led by the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) will demand federal funding to eradicate these diseases that cause up to 80% of primary liver cancers and is more common than HIV/AIDS.
Today’s activities around hepatitis B & C prevention follow on the heels of several landmark developments in advancing hepatitis as a pressing health issue of national concern, including:
• Introduction of H.R. 3974, “Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2009”
• Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) January report that found current strategies against chronic hepatitis B & C are ineffective
• A newly developed Department of Health & Human Services’ Interdepartmental Viral Hepatitis Working Group formed to improve the public health response to hepatitis
• Launch of a new television public service announcement by AAPCHO, in partnership with the Office of Minority Health and the Hepatitis B Foundation, to raise community awareness of hepatitis B and encourage Asian Americans to get screened for the disease.
“Many of our partners are working tirelessly to raise awareness and support research and prevention of hepatitis,” said Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), who offered his comments at a DHHS briefing introducing the work group earlier today. “By partnering to develop and advance our national goals and strategies to promote health, prevent disease, and increase access to quality health care, we can reduce chronic viral hepatitis for all U.S. populations and make our communities safer and healthier for all.”
AAPCHO, through its B Activated Hepatitis B program, is sponsoring nearly a dozen organizations representing Asian American, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders (AA & NHOPI) to attend today’s historic rally and give voice to a group disproportionately affected by hepatitis B. Of the nearly two million Americans living with chronic hepatitis B infection, more than 50% are AA & NHOPI Americans. Yet, because hepatitis B (HBV) often presents no symptoms for long periods, an estimated 65% of those infected are unaware of their infection and thus don’t seek treatment or have their loved ones vaccinated.
“This is critical milestone in the history of hepatitis in this country,” said Jeff Caballero, AAPCHO executive director. “Never before has our community been more mobilized and engaged on this issue. We have a bill in hand and we are not alone in pushing it forward; the events today in Washington DC and in numerous cities around the country is a combined effort of government, community groups, and industry. Our success has and will continue to depend on this collective power.”
The year-old B Activated program currently supports organizations from California, Pennsylvania, Seattle, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington DC to develop projects aimed at educating AA & NHOPI communities specifically about hepatitis B in new, culturally sensitive ways. Among numerous other activities, grantees have launched innovative “Talking Circle” programs that bridge cultural gaps between minority groups, harnessed social media tools in prevention education, and trained numerous new advocates to speak with lawmakers.
For more information on today’s rally, please visit www.nvhr.org.
The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) is a national association representing 27 community health organizations founded in 1987. For more than 20 years, AAPCHO has advocated for the provision of health care services that are community driven, culturally appropriate, linguistically accessible, and financially affordable for all. For more information and AAPCHO’s Guiding Principles and Values, please visit www.aapcho.org.
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