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World Hepatitis Day Celebrated on Steps of New York City Hall

July 28, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Council Member Margaret Chin Hosts City Council Event on World Hepatitis Awareness Day Asking for Greater Recognition of the Impact of Viral Hepatitis in NYC

At the Event, Asian American Health Coalition Led by NYU School of Medicine Unveils Community-led Campaign to Raise Awareness of Hepatitis B For At-Risk Chinese and Korean New Yorkers

    

NEW YORK, NY—July 28, 2011  In recognition of World Hepatitis Day, diverse voices across the globe raised awareness of viral hepatitis. In New York City, Council Member Margaret Chin announced the New York City Council’s support for efforts to decrease health disparities associated with chronic viral hepatitis such as hepatitis B and C, diseases that affect nearly a quarter of a million New Yorkers, twice as many as are living with HIV.

 

Hepatitis B is the largest health disparity facing Asian immigrants. Ten-fifteen percent of Asian immigrants living in NYC are infected compared to less than 0.3% of the general NYC population.  Yet a widespread lack of awareness and misconception about hepatitis B continues to exist, not only among the at-risk Asian communities, but also among health care providers, policymakers, and service practitioners. In fact, close to 70% of chronically infected people are not aware that they have hepatitis B.

 

Council member Margaret Chin stated, “This disease is all too often a silent presence in our communities. It is important that our community, and especially the Asian American community, can talk openly and honestly about the toll this disease is taking on our family, friends, and neighbors. Most people do not even know they are infected.” Various community leaders and advocates echoed Council member Chin’s remarks. Dr. Perry Pong, Chief Medical Officer of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in Manhattan’s Chinatown reported, “Half of all Americans living with hepatitis B are of Asian descent; yet, year after year, we find many of our patients are getting tested for the first time as adults... and 1 out of 8 of our patients is found to have chronic hepatitis B infection.” Dr. Kay Chun, Director of the Public Health Research Center of Korean Community Services of Metro NY stated, “It is important to educate the Asian American community of hepatitis B infection because it is a silent disease and if it is left untreated it can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.”

 
 

Dr. Simona Kwon of the B Free CEED: National Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Hepatitis B Disparities at NYU School of Medicine and co-chair of the NYC Hepatitis B Coalition accepted the proclamation on behalf of the Coalition. In her statement, Dr. Kwon shared the work of the B Free CEED to raise awareness of hepatitis B in the local Korean and Chinese communities in NYC.

 

Starting at the end of 2008, B Free CEED along with its main community partners the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center  and the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan NY, Inc, have been working to create a campaign to raise awareness on hepatitis B among the Chinese and Korean communities at highest risk for infection. In order to ensure that the campaign is culturally relevant and meaningful, detailed information was collected over a period of two years from community members who will be targeted for the campaign.  Information on basic knowledge and understanding of hepatitis B and where and whom the community turns to for trusted health information was collected.

 

In general, findings indicate that there are high levels of general awareness of hepatitis B, 88% - 90% among Chinese and Korean immigrants in NYC.  Thus, most of the surveyed community had heard of hepatitis B. However, findings also indicated significant confusion and misinformation of the illness, as well as a reluctance to discuss the issue of hepatitis B in the community. Furthermore, almost half of the surveyed Chinese and Korean community members who have health insurance had never been screened for hepatitis B. The top 3 reasons for not getting screened for both communities including: “feeling healthy,” “no physician recommendation,” and “lack of knowledge.” In fact, community members reported that seeing one’s physician or seeking preventive care, such as screening for hepatitis B or getting vaccinated, was not a priority if one feels healthy.

 

These findings further highlighted the need for an awareness and education campaign that addresses the high level of recognition of hepatitis B, but also challenges the widespread misinformation that exists. To realize the campaign, B Free CEED has partnered with the award winning NYC Asian-serving advertising agency, APartnership. Working with APartnership, B Free CEED has created a multi-phase campaign to build awareness and to encourage the at-risk community to know their hepatitis B status by empowering them to get tested and vaccinated or into follow-up care as needed. The campaign, which will consist of print ads, community art installations, and television public service announcements, will be rolled out starting on World Hepatitis Day, July 28, 2011.

 

Dr. Kwon added, “Diverse social and cultural influences have shaped the community’s understanding of hepatitis B, thus any campaign to raise awareness in our community requires a long-term, multi-faceted approach. We look forward to building additional partnerships with organizations, agencies, leaders and the City Council to create a sustainable campaign that makes a real difference in addressing hepatitis B in the at-risk Asian communities in NYC.”

 

About the B Free CEED

B Free CEED: National Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Hepatitis B Disparities is a national resource and expert center committed to eliminating hepatitis B disparities in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. B Free CEED develops, evaluates, and disseminates evidence-based practices. A partnership of New York University School of Medicine, Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan NY, and other local and national coalition members, B Free CEED is one of eighteen Centers of Excellence in the Elimination of Disparities funded in 2007 under the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Across the U.S. (REACH U.S.) program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 For more information on B Free CEED or to receive files of the hepatitis B awareness campaign, please contact Dr. Simona Kwon at simona.kwon@nyumc.org or Greta Elysee at greta.elysee@nyumc.org.