Mayor Edwin M. Lee today joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh to support the national plan from the Obama Administration to fight the viral hepatitis epidemic.
Viral hepatitis, which affects between 3.5 and 5.3 million Americans, is the leading cause of liver cancer. One in 10 Asians are chronically infected with hepatitis B and are four times more likely to die from liver cancer compared with the general population. Accordingly, San Francisco has the highest rate of liver cancer in the country.
“We are proud that San Francisco has played such a leading role in the effort to eradicate viral hepatitis,” said Mayor Lee. “We will continue to strengthen the partnerships between public health officials, medical professionals and treatment advocates to educate and encourage widespread testing, prevention and treatment among our most vulnerable communities.”
Dr. Koh and HHS launched a national action plan earlier this year to address the viral hepatitis epidemic. The plan outlines several systematic approaches to combating viral hepatitis, including increasing awareness among providers, patients and at-risk communities, as well as strengthening surveillance and vaccination efforts. The national plan is based upon San Francisco’s efforts to fight the disease.
Many of these initiatives are already in place through work by local groups including “SF Hep B Free,” an organization that has implemented widespread testing and public awareness among vulnerable populations, especially the Asian American community, here in San Francisco.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who is chronically infected with hepatitis B and is the honorary chairwoman of “SF Hep B Free,” emphasized the importance of establishing strong partnerships between public health officials, medical professionals and treatment advocates to educate the public and physicians on the viral hepatitis epidemic.
Herb K. Schultz, Region IX Director for HHS, called for regional and national implementation of the plan by bringing together partners from all sectors and communities. Ted Fang, San Francisco’s leading advocate to eliminate Hep B, served as the master of ceremonies for the event, which was held in a packed chambers at San Francisco’s Health Department hearing room.