January 9, 2015 • 0 comments • By John Ward, MD, Director, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Increase the proportion of persons who are aware of their hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection,
- Increase the proportion of persons who are aware of their hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, and
- Reduce the number of new cases of HCV infection.
The VHPCs determination and ingenuity have led to a number of successes, including:
- Identifying and addressing unmet educational needs, including supporting the translation of educational materials into myriad languages to better reach persons at risk in various jurisdictions;
- Providing technical assistance to answer questions from state policy makers about rapid HCV testing;
- Developing state and local guidelines for viral hepatitis services that support implementation of CDC recommendations, e.g., guidelines on who is offered hepatitis A and B vaccinations in public health clinics;
- Launching and managing peer-education programs in correctional settings; and
- Conducting analyses of surveillance data to better inform the allocation of limited resources and improve program impact.
VIRAL HEPATITIS PREVENTION COORDINATORS’ CORE ACTIVITIES
VHPCs leverage opportunities to increase awareness about viral hepatitis, prioritize those activities that can make the greatest difference in the lives of individuals at risk in their jurisdiction, and coordinate with other groups to make the most of available resources. Indeed, the opportunities to promote adoption of viral hepatitis prevention services recommended by CDC and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have never been greater, particularly given relatively recent changes in policies and technology.
CDC and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend HBV and HCV testing for similar populations. As a result of the USPSTF recommendations, HCV screening is provided as a preventive service to clients by most health plans, with no out-of-pocket expense. HBV screening will be added to the list of covered preventive services in 2015. In addition, Medicaid expansion also is increasing the number of persons with access to viral hepatitis prevention and screening services. A point-of-care test for HCV is now available, thereby increasing the types of settings in which testing can be provided; and, the widespread adoption of electronic health records provides new opportunities to remind providers of the need to test patients. Using available tools, VHPCs work in close collaboration with health-department colleagues and external health-care system partners to promote CDC and USPSTF’s recommendations for hepatitis B and C testing and linkage to care and treatment.
I encourage everyone working in the field of viral hepatitis to look for opportunities to collaborate with the VHPC in their jurisdiction. As Dan Church, VHPC in Massachusetts, states, “There is clearly much more work that remains to be done, from enhancing HCV prevention efforts among young persons who inject drugs to expanding testing and medical management services for persons with hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection. Due to the infrastructure and collaborative relationships that have been made possible through this initiative, this expanded work is more feasible.” The VHPC program is vital to the achievement of the national goals of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan. I salute the work of the coordinators for their contributions toward developing the foundation upon which we continue to build our national response