HK lacks official strategy on viral hepatitis, study finds

16-Jun-2017 Intellasia | SCMP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

City found to be only one among 13 Asia-Pacific territories surveyed to be without government-led policy to eradicate disease

A study by a Hong Kong university has found that the city’s government lags behind other Asia-Pacific jurisdictions in terms of preventing and treating chronic viral hepatitis linked to liver cancer.

Chinese University researchers surveyed 13 territories across the region, including Australia, Bangladesh, and China. Of these, Hong Kong was the only one lacking a government-led strategy to eliminate viral hepatitis.

Nearly one in every 10 Hong Kong residents is infected with chronic hepatitis B, according to the study, released on Wednesday.

Hong Kong can be among first cities to eradicate hepatitis C with action plan, expert says

Instead of a strategic official plan, Hong Kong follows the more general Asia-Pacific regional guidelines on hepatitis management.

“We’re hoping that the new government will look into this problem,” said Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, the university’s president and vice-chancellor, and a founding member of the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific.

The viral disease kills more than 1.34 million people worldwide each year. Many of those carrying hepatitis live in the Asia-Pacific region and South Asia.

But the disease is treatable, with the World Health Organization setting a goal last year to eliminate it worldwide by 2030.

According to Tammy Meyers, the report’s lead author, local policies on viral hepatitis prevention and diagnosis can have a considerable impact on controlling the disease. The survey recommended that jurisdictions adopt strategic plans, and take diagnosis and management out of the hands of specialists by training family doctors to treat patients.The city, though lacking a strategic plan, had taken some steps in the right direction, including allocating funds for some hepatitis programmes, Meyers said.

Sung agreed, saying: “Hong Kong had done a number of things that actually make it a pioneer in this area for Asia”, referring to its requirement for babies to be vaccinated against hepatitis B since 1988.

The study also found that, though patients were not routinely charged for diagnosis, they did have to pay out of pocket for new effective anti-viral treatments.

The city fell short when it came to collecting official data on people living with and dying from the disease. The report said NGOs and academics were accumulating data in place of government surveillance.

But the study’s results were limited in their application as researchers interviewed only one government expert in each of the 13 jurisdictions they surveyed.

The city’s Centre for Health Protection said that it “fully supported” the WHO’s action plan for the region, and that a task force had been set up with a view to developing a territory-wide plan.

The body added that the task force was still collecting data, and aimed to enhance treatment coverage to lower the number of deaths from the disease in the city.


Category: Health

Print This Post

Comments are closed.