NVHR Applauds World Health Organization Resolution Calling For Comprehensive Strategy to Fight Viral Hepatitis Worldwide

Jun 02, 2010, 11:43 ET from National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable

WASHINGTON, June 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Late last month, the Member States at the 63rd World Health Assembly in Geneva adopted an historic resolution calling on the World Health Organization to develop a comprehensive global approach to the prevention and control of chronic viral hepatitis.  The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) applauds this resolution and believes it will play a critical role in advancing the development of a coordinated global strategy to fight a disease afflicting as many as 500 million people worldwide, the coalition said today.  The resolution also calls for a WHO-sponsored World Hepatitis Day beginning next year on July 28, 2011.  

"Viral hepatitis does not discriminate with respect to race, gender, age, income, or national borders.  This opportunistic disease is a global challenge that requires a coordinated global response, which is why we are heartened and gratified to have the World Health Organization's commitment to developing a comprehensive strategy," said Ms. Lorren Sandt, NVHR Chair and Executive Director of Caring Ambassadors Program, based in Portland, Oregon.  "While we do not yet know the level of resources WHO will able to commit, we look forward to working very closely with WHO in the coming years to help eradicate this insidious disease once and for all."

The viral hepatitis resolution adopted at the World Health Assembly directs WHO to focus on four key areas that will be critical to help turning the tide on viral hepatitis:

  • Preventing the transmission of viral hepatitis through safe and effective public health strategies;
  • Identifying and treating those most at-risk for viral hepatitis-related disease with safe and effective therapies;
  • Integrating proven public health strategies for preventing viral hepatitis across the health system; and
  • Innovating by developing new vaccines and technologies for use in viral hepatitis prevention.  

The full report accepted by the World Health Assembly can be found at http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA63/A63_15-en.pdf

In the United States, approximately 1 in 50 Americans are afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis B or C – with most unaware they are infected, especially African Americans and Asian Americans.  Without detection and treatment, chronic viral hepatitis leads to liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure.  In the absence of federal leadership, the research firm Milliman estimates that public and private payers' cost of treating chronic viral hepatitis C alone will more than triple by 2024 to $85 billion annually.  Medicare and Medicaid would absorb a disproportionate share of these added costs.

Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a landmark report blasting the federal government for its inadequate response to this crisis.  Bipartisan legislation, HR 3974, "The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act," sponsored by Representatives Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Charles Dent (R-Pa.) and 45 other House Members would correct this shortfall.  The Honda-Dent legislation would increase the ability of the CDC to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance, and referral to care efforts.  Much of the Honda-Dent legislation tracks with the IoM's recommendations. 

NVHR is a coalition of more than 150 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans.  www.nvhr.org

SOURCE National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable