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Hepatitis B Foundation applauds release of National Hepatitis Strategic Plan

Doylestown, Jan. 7, 2021 – Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan, which provides a roadmap toward the elimination of viral hepatitis in the U.S. (2021-2025), including key objectives and strategies to eliminate hepatitis B and related health inequities.

The HHS hepatitis plan establishes five high-level goals:

  • prevent new viral hepatitis infections,
  • improve viral hepatitis-related health outcomes of people with viral hepatitis,
  • reduce viral hepatitis-related disparities and health inequities,
  • improve viral hepatitis surveillance and data usage, and
  • achieve integrated, coordinated efforts that address the viral hepatitis epidemics among all partners and stakeholders.

In the U.S., hepatitis B affects up to 2.2 million people and the majority remain undiagnosed. Despite having effective tools, including vaccines to prevent and therapies to treat hepatitis B and liver cancer, rates of acute hepatitis B infection have spiked in some sections of the country. That is particularly true in regions hardest hit by the opioid epidemic and where significant disparities in hepatitis B-related mortality rates persist.

“Historically, hepatitis B has been under-prioritized as an urgent public health threat in the U.S., and progress on the prevention of hepatitis B infection has stalled,” Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, senior vice president of the Hepatitis B Foundation and co-chair of the Hep B United coalition, said. “We commend HHS for their leadership in developing comprehensive strategies to guide our work and for recognizing the need to advance research to achieve a hepatitis B cure, strengthen hepatitis B surveillance data, increase treatment access and reduce hepatitis B-related disparities among highly-impacted communities, including foreign-born populations and people who inject drugs.”

The HHS hepatitis plan includes objectives to increase hepatitis vaccine uptake and development, and strategies to provide vaccination at a broad range of clinical, community-based and high-risk settings such as treatment and harm-reduction sites. The HHS plan also discusses strategies to reduce health inequities among communities disproportionately impacted by chronic hepatitis B infection and identifies priority populations, including Asian American and Pacific Islander and African/non-Hispanic Black communities.

In 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic revealed the lack of resources dedicated to the public health care system including impacts on viral hepatitis services. The challenges underscore the need to invest in innovation and coordination. The Hepatitis B Foundation looks forward to collaborating with the Biden Administration, federal partners and community stakeholders to coordinate efforts and activate resources to implement the viral hepatitis elimination strategies guided by the HHS hepatitis plan.

The Hepatitis B Foundation and Hep B United responded to the HHS Request for Information on the draft National Viral Hepatitis Strategic Plan. Our comments can be found here. The HHS National Viral Hepatitis Strategic Plan: A Roadmap to Elimination for the United States (2021-2025) is posted here.