The Silent Epidemic Facing the Black Community: Viral Hepatitis

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Editor’s note: We are pleased to share a guest post from Dr. Nadine Gracia highlighting activities to address one of the racial/ethnic health disparities in viral hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis is sometimes referred to as a silent epidemic, one that leads to more than 17,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. But this epidemic, which disproportionately affects African Americans — who are 1.5 times more likely to die from the disease than non-Hispanic whites — too often goes unnoticed by the public and undetected by health care providers and patients.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and reduce its impact on the African American community. Since 2011, the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis has guided the efforts of HHS, other federal agencies and non-governmental partners. Building on the achievements of that plan and recent advances in this field, HHS and its federal partners renewed their commitment to improving the national response to viral hepatitis with the release of the updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan on April 3, 2014. The updated plan includes actions designed to improve awareness of viral hepatitis among and access to prevention, screening, care, and treatment for priority populations, including African Americans.

Among the ways that the HHS Office of Minority Health is contributing to this important national health priority is by helping to identify and support promising practices for prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis through two of our demonstration projects — the HIV/AIDS Health Improvement for Re-entering Ex-Offenders Initiative (HIRE) and Linkage to Life: Rebuilding Broken Bridges for Minority Families Impacted by HIV/AIDS (L2L). Individuals at risk for HIV/AIDS are also at high risk for hepatitis C. Given the intersection between these two epidemics and the opportunity to better serve individuals who are at risk for or co-infected with HIV and HCV, hepatitis C diagnosis and linkage to care has become an important component of OMH’s HIV-related demonstration projects.

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Source: The Body

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