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The Future of Hepatitis: Time to Get Political

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. May 13, 2010

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May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and there is no better time to participate in the much-needed improvement of viral hepatitis prevention, control and surveillance programs.

The medical accomplishments of today are often a result of the hard work and dedication of the previous generation. For those who enjoy pristine health, it is easy to take the evolution of modern medicine for granted. But when it comes to medical issues that combine healthcare and politics, those with chronic viral hepatitis don’t have the luxury of taking medical progress for granted. Marking the 15th anniversary of Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States, May 2010 is a prime opportunity to demonstrate political solidarity in an effort to raise viral hepatitis awareness.

There is no question that the primary culprits of chronic viral hepatitis, the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses, are major health problems worldwide. Even though those with either viral strain have a better chance of eliminating the virus with early detection and treatment, chronic viral hepatitis often goes undetected until it has progressed to advanced liver disease. Unfortunately, chronic viral hepatitis is the most common reason for a liver transplant in the United States, and frequently leads to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.

A division of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine announced study results in 2010 proving that chronic viral hepatitis is in need of resources to match its toll on the public health system. The researchers concluded that more funds are required to boost knowledge and awareness, surveillance and healthcare services for chronic viral hepatitis. Upon realizing these specific needs as outlined by the Institute of Medicine, most who understand the prevalence and severity of viral hepatitis are ready to demonstrate a political stance in favor of funding for this disease.

Below are two opportunities to get involved in the union of healthcare and politics – with the overarching goal to endorse viral hepatitis prevention, control and surveillance programs..

  1. March in Washington – On May 19, 2010, which also happens to be World Hepatitis Day, a rally in Washington D.C. will be held at the United States Capitol. Sponsored by the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, the goal of this march is to demand that Congress fully funds hepatitis programs in the U.S.
  2. Support Bill H.R. 3974 – Otherwise known as the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2009, bill H.R. 3974 was written to amend the Public Health Service Act to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish, promote, and support a comprehensive prevention, education, research, and medical management referral program for viral hepatitis infection. This program will lead to a marked reduction in the disease burden associated with chronic viral hepatitis and liver cancer.

Since this important bill is currently in the first step of the legislative process, public support counts. By letting your U.S. House of Representative know (via phone call or email) that you support this bill, you are making your desire to enhance hepatitis awareness known. You can reach your Representative by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or email Representatives directly from writerep.house.gov.

Because there are so many worthy causes and limited resources, government-sponsored programs to improve prevention, education and access to medical care always involves dedicated advocates. When it comes to the tremendous burden of viral hepatitis on America’s health and well-being, there are few worthier causes. With this in mind, there is no better time than now to get political by joining the March 19, 2010 rally or conveying your support of H.R. 3974 – because the efforts we make today will make a difference in hepatitis awareness tomorrow.

References:

http://cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5917a1.htm, Hepatitis Awareness Month — May 2010, Retrieved May 7, 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010.

http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/1960s_-_Events_and_trends/id/4726438, 1960s Events and Trends, Retrieved May 6, 2010, Global Oneness, 2010.

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-3974, H.R. 3974: Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2009, Retrieved May 7, 2010, govtrack.us, 2010.
http://www.hepb.org/advocacy/awareness_month.htm, May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month, Retrieved May 7, 2010, Hepatitis B Foundation, 2010.

http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Hepatitis-and-Liver-Cancer-A-National-Strategy-for-Prevention-and-Control-of-Hepatitis-B-and-C.aspx, Hepatitis and Liver Cancer: A National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis B and C, Retrieved May 7, 2010, Institute of Medicine, 2010.

http://www.natap.org/2010/HCV/032610_03.htm, The Institute of Medicine report on viral hepatitis: A call to action, Retrieved May 7, 2010, Hepatology, March 2010.

http://www.nvhr.org/calltoaction.htm, A Call To Action!, Retrieved May 6, 2010, National Virus Hepatitis Roundtable, 2010.

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