By: Kenny Ng, STJ AMCP Chapter President, PharmD c/o 2017, Kenny Chan, STJ AMCP Chapter President-Elect, PharmD c/o 2017, Davidta Brown, Senior Staff Editor
While those who work tirelessly to combat the spread of Hepatitis B and C never have a day off, there is one day in the year during which special attention is paid to their cause. On July 28th, otherwise known as World Hepatitis Day, the St. John’s University chapter of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) partnered with Team HBV and the NYC Hepatitis B Coalition and Hepatitis C Task Force for a citywide event aimed at informing the public about these different infections.
In the United States alone, there are an estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million chronic cases of hepatitis B, and 2.7 to 3.9 million cases of hepatitis C.1 Untreated viral hepatitis is a leading cause of long-term liver damage. Because infected individuals can be asymptomatic for years, many of these people are unaware that they have the disease.2,3 It is important to note that the prevalence of hepatitis B and C varies between different ethnic groups. Hepatitis C-related liver disease is a leading cause of death among individuals aged 45 to 65 in the African-American community, whereas a staggering 1 in 12 Asians and Pacific Islanders suffer from chronic hepatitis B infection.2,3 Clearly, community outreach to address the prevention and treatment of hepatitis must be audience-specific.
Team HBV, the primary organizers of the World Hepatitis Day event, consists of a group of local volunteers and collegiate and high school chapters who visit local communities with important information about testing and prevention.4 Hepatitis is a disease state of special interest in Managed Care pharmacy, and it has gained even more attention with the introduction of new specialty drugs for Hepatitis C, including sofosbuvir (Sovaldi®) and simeprevir (Olysio™). These drugs create a difficult scenario for F&T committees, as steep prices leads many to question their true cost-effectiveness for patients.
The World Hepatitis Day awareness event took place in two parts. For the first segment, volunteers were spread throughout the boroughs of New York where they held signs and distributed flyers in populated locations. Volunteers in the borough of Queens were located in Flushing where posters and flyers were written in Chinese, Korean, and English, with hopes of reaching as many hepatitis patients as possible. Volunteers in Manhattan were located in Chinatown and Little Italy. Nearly every passerby would slow their pace to read the posters held by volunteers, and many stopped to receive a flyer or ask for information about testing.
The second part of the World Hepatitis Day event involved volunteers from all five boroughs meeting in Foley Square for an attention-grabbing freeze mob. Participants held large cards that, when put together, loudly shared a message about viral hepatitis prevention. News reporters from local TV stations and radio shows were present to interview New York City Councilmember Margaret Chin and the heads of Team HBV to learn more about World Hepatitis Day. Afterwards, AMCP president Kenny Ng and president-elect Kenny Chan met with Councilmember Chin to introduce themselves on behalf of St. John’s University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. Councilmember Chin was excited to meet the future of pharmacy and expressed hope that more pharmacy students throughout New York will get involved in World Hepatitis Day in the years to come. Councilmember Chin informed the volunteers that many Chinese immigrants suffer from chronic to fatal Hepatitis because they lack a basic understanding on early detection and treatment options.
By reaching out to both New York City communities and law and policy makers, the World Hepatitis Day event addressed two major sources of change. Sharing information with both audiences is a way to make a genuine difference in supporting the cause, and it was a privilege to have been a part of this effort.
Message from AMCP President, Kenny Ng:
“A special thanks to all the St. John’s pharmacy students that participated in NYC World Hepatitis Day this year. If I didn’t get the chance to thank you personally for attending World Hepatitis Day, please know that I am eternally grateful for your attendance. I am looking forward to more participation from our peers, and I hope that more state health agencies in New York will soon become familiar with the outgoing and active nature of our pharmacy student body at St. John’s University.”
For those interested in an internship/volunteer experience with the Liver Foundation, please visit:
- Cdc.gov. CDC DVH – Viral Hepatitis Statistics & Surveillance. 2014. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/HEPATITIS/Statistics/index.htm. Accessed August 13, 2014.
- Cdc.gov. CDC DVH – Viral Hepatitis Populations – Asian & Pacific Islanders. 2014. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/Populations/api.htm. Accessed August 13, 2014.
- Cdc.gov. CDC DVH – Viral Hepatitis Populations – Hepatitis C in the African American Community. 2014. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/Populations/AAC-HepC.htm. Accessed August 13, 2014.
- Teamhbv.org. About | Team HBV. 2014. Available at: http://teamhbv.org/about/. Accessed August 13, 2014.
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