U.S. Government Releases Updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan

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On April 3 the federal government released its latest 3-year update to the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (initially launched in 2011), which provides a framework for strengthening the nation's response to hepatitis B and C.

"With the new advances in hepatitis C treatment, more widespread availability of safe and effective vaccines for hepatitis A and B, and more opportunities for testing for hepatitis C under the Affordable Care Act, we have arrived at a critical moment," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Ronald Valdiserri. "By harnessing these and other developments, we have the potential to reduce the toll of viral hepatitis in the U.S. and save many lives."

Hepatitis B and C affect between 3.5 and 5.3 million Americans, most of whom are unaware of their infection, according to a summary fact sheet. Chronic viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants in the U.S., and it is a leading infectious cause of death, accounting for 12,000-18,000 deaths each year.

The updated plan is a collaborative effort by the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs, working with other government and non-government stakeholders.

The plan aims to accomplish 4 overarching goals by 2020:

To this end, efforts are focused on 6 priority areas:

Steps already taken toward these goals include establishment of National Hepatitis Testing Day,new HCV testing recommendations that call for all Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1965 to be screened at least once, production of culturally appropriate hepatitis B outreach and educational materials in several Asian languages, exploring new ways to prevent viral hepatitis among people who inject drugs, and expansion of health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

 

"The renewed plan continues its focus on bringing together key federal agencies and departments to coordinate activities and leverage resources," National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable executive director Ryan Clary told HIVandHepatitis.com. "The plan has some new components, such as suggested activities for state and local health departments, medical providers, and community organizations."

But more resources will be needed to accomplish the plan's goals. President Obama has recommended only flat funding in his FY 2015 budget, which is not enough to meet the plan's goals of expanding testing, prevention, care, and treatment, according to Clary.

"While the plan demonstrates strong leadership, the challenge with implementation continues to be highly inadequate federal funding," he said. "Congress must provide increased funding in the FY 2015 appropriations bill and the administration must identify resources to support key activities in the plan if we are to truly fight the viral hepatitis epidemic."

The full Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (2014-2016) isavailable online.

4/9/14

Sources

Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (2014-2016). www.aids.gov/pdf/viral-hepatitis-action-plan.pdf. April 2014.

Department of Health and Human Services. Updated Action Plan to Combat Viral Hepatitis Released. Press release. April 3, 2014.

HK Koh. Updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan Released. Blog.AIDS.gov. April 3, 2014.

AIDS.gov. Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. Summary fact sheet.