Making hepatitis a public health priority in Lebanon
It is an effort to break the silence on a major public health problem. A few weeks ago Roche Lebanon announced a partnership with the Ministry of Public Health and other professional bodies to launch the 2014 National Hepatitis Awareness campaign. The campaign seeks to promote simple messages about improving education on this disease as well as delivering real improvements in health outcomes with those living with hepatitis B and C.
The campaign was launched at a press conference in Beirut. Speaking on the occasion, minister of public health Wael Abu Faour said: “Many Lebanese have chronic viral hepatitis and most of them don’t know it as it is considered to be a silent disease. It’s our chance to call for a change in attitude to hepatitis and we are keen on achieving results in sharing information and promoting awareness because viral hepatitis can be avoided.”
“Symptoms of viral hepatitis often go unnoticed. It can cause both acute and chronic liver disease and can end up into life threatening diseases such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. It often causes no symptoms until there is irreversible liver damage. But it is very often ignored. So the objective is to break the silence about this health problem,” pointed out Rim Bitar, Medical Director at Roche Lebanon.
Access to information
Increased understanding and education among the local community is an essential first step in reducing the significant number of people being newly infected with hepatitis B and C every year in Lebanon. The threat is compounded by the fact that 75 percent of those with chronic viral hepatitis do not know they have the disease and are neither receiving treatment nor making lifestyle changes that could have a positive impact on their health.
“Roche is striving to create positive change in the society by providing healthcare education and access. We support our local community partners to run awareness and counselling programs to empower people with the knowledge they need to safeguard their own health,” stated Abed Al Rahman Sabra, Country Manager of Roche Lebanon.
In addition to the ministry of health, the national campaign is being rolled out in partnership with several professional physicians’ bodies and the presence of WHO representatives. “This is an important step forward as it is estimated that there are millions of people around the world infected with chronic hepatitis C in their 40s and 50s and unaware of it. As they move into their 60s and 70s, experts predict a hepatitis ‘age wave’ which will have serious economic consequences. It is also a well-known fact that 350 million people globally have hepatitis B,” explained Rim Bitar.