HHS Hosts Hepatitis B Town Hall Meeting on World Hepatitis Day
On World Hepatitis Day, July 28, 2016, the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP) hosted a Hepatitis B Town Hall meeting with the Hepatitis B United Coalition (HBU), a national coalition of community organizations working to educate communities about hepatitis B and recommend or provide testing for those at risk. The HBU brought close to 60 participants to Washington DC for their annual Summit which provides opportunities to share best practices, provide peer-to-peer technical assistance, and plan meetings with HHS and Capitol Hill leadership to educate and share concerns and priorities.
Opening remarks were delivered by HHS leadership: Richard Wolitski, PhD, Acting Director of OHAIDP and Carol Jimenez, Deputy Director of the Office of Minority Health. Dr. Wolitski highlighted the importance of partnerships and leveraging strategic opportunities as we work toward achieving the goals of the Action Plan. Carol Jimenez spoke about the need to address health disparities in viral hepatitis including hepatitis B in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and African immigrants.
Federal participants were drawn from members of the Viral Hepatitis Implementation Group, the Federal staff responsible for implementing viral hepatitis programs and activities throughout the government as part of the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (Action Plan). During the interactive town hall discussion, Federal panelists included representatives from the CDC’s Center for HIV, Hepatitis, TB, and STD Prevention and the Division of Viral Hepatitis, HRSA’s Bureau of Primary Health Care, the National Vaccine Program Office, the HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
The discussion covered many community concerns as well as strategies that could be effective in addressing the issues such as viral hepatitis surveillance and the gaps in what we know about hepatitis B. Community members described their work to collect and use data on the testing and vaccination services they provide. Intersecting health problems that affect the same communities like TB were identified and strategies to align efforts to serve these populations more holistically were discussed. Perinatal hepatitis B prevention strategies, increasing access to adult hepatitis B vaccination, the need to identify and address discrimination against people living with chronic hepatitis B, and faith-based opportunities to educate and recommend testing and vaccination were all part of the rich dialogue.
Through collaborative discussions like this Town Hall meeting, community members can better understand the various roles of Federal agencies and staff. Federal staff benefit from hearing firsthand about the challenges faced in providing front line hepatitis B prevention education and services and can use these real world stories to inform their work and better understand the roles of community partners in the fight against hepatitis B.