BOSTON, Nov. 1, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Howard Koh, the 14th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), described the steps the U.S. administration is taking in response to the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on viral hepatitis in his 2010 President's Choice Lecture at The Liver Meeting®, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). Dr. Koh formed and led a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-wide team that will soon issue a hepatitis action plan that will leverage new funding opportunities and integrate activities throughout HHS to build true systems of care for high-risk individuals.
Additionally, the plan will be used to strengthen partnerships with federal, professional, and patient organizations in an effort to set and implement policies to guide public health and clinical practice. Other goals of the plan will be to harmonize screening guidelines, create new strategies for workforce development, and improve hepatitis B vaccination rates for adults at high risk. Dr. Koh stressed the need for collaboration in addressing the epidemic of hepatitis, including the need to work with state and local health leaders and create stronger links with professional societies such as AASLD. The report will address the need for prevention and building the capacity for reducing the number and incidence of viral hepatitis infections and improving the health of patients and economic consequences of viral hepatitis.
Dr. Koh also praised the recent Trust for America's Health report developed in collaboration with AASLD that translates the IOM report into language that may be used to affect appropriations to support research and health care delivery for liver disease and also to be used in future legislation to make the screening, early detection, and treatment of viral hepatitis a reality.
Viral hepatitis is the fourth leading infectious cause of death, but is virtually unknown to health care providers, the general public, at-risk populations, and policymakers. Individuals with viral hepatitis are at increased risk for liver cancer and chronic liver disease, yet an estimated 70 percent of persons with chronic viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected. In the absence of appropriate treatment, 15 to 40 percent of infected persons will develop liver cirrhosis; viral hepatitis is also the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. In addition, liver cancer rates have tripled over the last several decades in contrast to other types of cancer. Surveillance data suggest that nearly 20,000 people are newly infected with HCV every year.
Recent developments in many health-related areas can potentially contribute to lower rates of chronic hepatitis virus in the U.S. and improve health outcomes for infected persons. The HHS action plan reflects upon feedback received from both experts and the community, and will help HHS improve its existing efforts to prevent viral hepatitis and related disease in the following three ways:
• Establishing priorities for the specific actions that must be taken, assigning lead and partner agencies with responsibility for meeting these priorities
• Helping HHS build prevention and care capacity and improving the efficiency of current efforts through improved coordination of viral hepatitis activities across HHS operating divisions
• Serving as a guide for HHS to engage other governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations in viral hepatitis prevention and care
This action plan is organized into the following six topic areas, which correspond to IOM recommendations:
• Increasing community awareness and provider education
• Strengthening surveillance for viral hepatitis
• Preventing viral hepatitis associated with injection-drug use
• Preventing viral hepatitis transmission through vaccination
• Preventing health care associated viral hepatitis
• Improving screening, care, and treatment for viral hepatitis
About the AASLD
AASLD is the leading medical organization for advancing the science and practice of hepatology. Founded by physicians in 1950, AASLD's vision is to prevent and cure liver diseases. This year's Liver Meeting®, held in Boston, Massachusetts, October 29- November 2, will bring together more than 7,500 researchers from 55 countries.
A pressroom will be available from October 30 at the annual meeting. For copies of abstracts and press releases, or to arrange for pre-conference research interviews contact Gregory Bologna at 703-299-9766. To pre-register, call Ann Haran at 703-299-9766.
Press releases and all abstracts are available online at http://www.aasld.org/.
Media Contact: Gregory Bologna
Press Room: October 30 – November 2, 2010
Hynes Convention Center, Room 208
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SOURCE American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases