ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) welcomes the United States Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) report Combating the Silent Epidemic: US Department of Health and Human Services Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. The plan was developed by an interagency working group in collaboration with professional societies, community-based organizations, and other members of the public and presented by the office of Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh on May 12, 2011.
We applaud the political direction provided by HHS, but we must, however, sound a cautionary note: This report is only as valuable as Congress' willingness to fund the initiatives recommended in the action plan. The toll on human lives as well as the financial toll of the hepatitis epidemic is clear. These future costs can be avoided, but it requires a financial investment now. For too long viral hepatitis has been woefully underfunded. AASLD urges Congress to rectify this oversight and fully fund the HHS action plan. Yes, we understand the financial crisis facing our nation, but funding the HHS action plan is a decision we cannot afford to postpone. We must pay now to avoid the massive costs in human lives and dollars that will surely be paid later if we fail to act.
Since its creation more than 60 years ago, AASLD has been dedicated to the prevention and cure of liver disease. A goal of growing importance for AASLD over the past few years has been raising the public's awareness of viral hepatitis. The screening, prevention, and treatment of viral hepatitis is and will continue to be major issues for our Society since it is the number one cause of liver cancer, which is one of the few cancers growing in incidence and in the top ten frequent causes of death in the US.
We trust that the action plan released by Dr. Koh's office will bring increased visibility to viral hepatitis as it coordinates the efforts of all departments in HHS. It follows on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report from January 2010 entitled Hepatitis and Liver Cancer: A National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis B and C, which estimated that 1 in 50 Americans has viral hepatitis. AASLD partnered with the Trust for America's Health in issuing in September 2010 the study HBV & HCV: America's Hidden Epidemics, the intention of which was to create a detailed recommendation plan to translate the scientific findings of the IOM report into public policy initiatives. The HHS action plan is the natural next step in this progression – the necessary response by the Federal government to the IOM report on this undiagnosed epidemic facing our country.
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.
Media Contact: Gregory Bologna
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SOURCE American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)