The Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP) is, in advance of World Hepatitis Day on 28 July 2014 , calling upon governments across Asia-Pacific to develop and implement coordinated national action plans to fight viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer.
In Asia Pacific, chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C together with other forms of viral hepatitis kill over one million people per year, a death rate that is three times higher than HIV/AIDS.
Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C are major reasons for liver diseases, causing 78% of all liver cancer globally. Across the world in less developed regions, people living with hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections are most susceptible to developing cancer, with data showing that the viruses are responsible for 32% of all new infection-caused cancer cases per year in low- and middle-income countries, more than any other types of infection.
Data from the 2014 World Cancer Report show that liver cancer is now the second most common cause of cancer death in Asia Pacific.
Although viral hepatitis is an enormous and complex health threat, practical actions can substantially reduce the disease burden. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a four-part blueprint -- the Framework for Global Action -- that guides national governments on effective ways to prevent and control the spread of viral hepatitis. The Framework has four parts, or Axes, which can be summarized as "ASAP":
- A for Awareness raising, partnership promotion and resource mobilization (Axis 1)
- S for Scientific evidence to drive policy and action (Axis 2)
- A for Access to immunization and information to prevent transmission (Axis 3)
- P for Provision of screening, care and treatment (Axis 4)
This practical framework can be of great assistance to governments across the region, as Professor Ding-Shinn Chen, Chair of CEVHAP and Immediate Past Dean of the College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, explains: "Socio-economic conditions vary between Asia-Pacific countries, but through front-line clinical practice and extensive research across the region, CEVHAP experts have found that the actions recommended by the WHO Framework for Global Action are applicable and urgently needed in most countries. We ask national governments use the framework as a guide to develop national action plans as soon as possible."
This call to action was recently echoed by the World Health Assembly resolution on viral hepatitis, which urges member states to develop and implement coordinated national action plans for preventing, diagnosing and treating viral hepatitis. The new resolution on viral hepatitis (WHA67.6) was unanimously adopted during the 67 th World Health Assembly in May 2014 , representing a worldwide consensus on the need for more concrete action to fight viral hepatitis.
According to the WHO's latest survey of ministries of health worldwide, only half of the countries surveyed in Asia Pacific have a national action plan to prevent and control the spread of viral hepatitis.5 This is despite the fact that 70% of the world's hepatitis-related deaths occur in the region. 1
National governments are not alone in the fight against viral hepatitis. Drawing on lessons learnt from combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, cross-sector partnerships have proven to be effective in mobilizing the expertise and resources needed to prevent and treat diseases of wide prevalence and high mortality.
Cross-sector partnerships will be particularly critical to the development of a much-needed international funding mechanism. Funding issues present a significant barrier to the ability of governments to implement comprehensive measures aimed at reducing the disease burden of viral hepatitis, especially in low and mid-income countries.
Professor Stephen Locarnini, Director of the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory for Hepatitis B at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) and Joint Secretary of CEVHAP, says: "Over the past decade, we have seen the emergence of many avenues of funding which have significantly broadened access to diagnostics and treatments for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and we believe the same can be achieved for viral hepatitis. It is time for governments to invest in their people's health and liver health must be the top priority. WHO has given a Framework to guide the development of national action plans and we urge them to use it."
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