Team HBV at Harvard Addresses the Need to Raise Awareness of the Hepatitis B Virus

| November 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

Co-presidents of Team HBV at Harvard at Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center’s 27th Annual Oak Street Fair, Boston. 29 Sept. 2012. Personal photograph by author. JPEG file.

When the members of Team HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) at Harvard give their presentations to local communities at high risk for Hepatitis B, they ask as a component of their presentation, “How many of you have heard of Hepatitis B and know exactly what it is?” The proportion of raised hands to this question is, unfortunately, fairly low.

So what exactly is Hepatitis B?  Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can cause liver damage, disease, cirrhosis, and/or cancer. As the largest health disparity between Asian Americans and Caucasians, it is estimated that in the U.S., while approximately 10% of Asians and Pacific Islanders are infected with Hepatitis B, under 0.2% of Caucasians are infected (“Chronic”).

A lack of Hepatitis B awareness resonates throughout the nation, including the Asian American population that the disease so disproportionally affects.  For example, a study reported that among Vietnamese Americans, about 70% did not know that Asian Americans are at high risk for HBV, and 64% were unaware that a vaccine existed (Colvin 80).  Among Cambodian Americans, fewer than 50% knew what HBV was (Colvin 80).

In response to the presence of the health disparity and the lack of awareness, Team HBV at Harvard gives educational presentations specifically to local Asian communities that detail what hepatitis B is, why it is important, and how to prevent or treat the disease (“About”).  Important aspects of Team HBV presentations include dispelling myths about transmission such as that transmission occurs not through sharing food or utensils with an infected person, but rather through contact with infected blood and body fluids (Center).  The presentation ends with a discussion of methods of prevention and treatment. Team HBV members assure that the Hepatitis B vaccine effectively grants lifelong immunity to those who are not infected already. Even if a person is infected, there are multiple FDA-approved medications available to allow the person to live a long, normal life provided that he or she receives regular check-ups with a physician (“Hepatitis B”).

As the main goal of this club is to spread awareness, community outreach plans form a bulk of the agenda of meetings every week. In continuation with previous years, Team HBV regularly gives presentations at local health centers and community fairs.  This year, Team HBV at Harvard is significantly expanding on its outreach efforts.  Multiple Outreach Coordinators are determining ways to reach more local, high-risk communities of Asian Americans and immigrants. While up until last year, the team had been giving presentations in English and Mandarin Chinese, this year, the presentations have been translated into Korean and Vietnamese as well.

As an Outreach Coordinator myself, I believe that these efforts to expand the audience base greatly expand the possibilities for the club’s future efforts.  Team HBV can, from now on, give presentations at new venues such as local Korean churches.  What the group needs now is to specifically recruit new members who speak these different languages in addition to general members for English presentations.  In terms of general outreach efforts, I believe Team HBV should continue to establish long working relationships with local clinics, since it creates a solid base for outreach.  In addition, creative event ideas, such as having a face-painting booth for children at a fair which would enable the team to give short presentations to the children’s’ parents, should be pursued to diversify the kinds of outreach events.


Sources:

  1. “About.” Team HBV. Team HBV, 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://teamhbv.org/about/>.
  2. Centers for Disease Control. “Hepatitis B FAQs for Health Professionals.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HBV/HBVfaq.htm>.
  3. “Chronic Hepatitis B in Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders: Background.” Office of Minority Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 17 Dec. 2008. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=7240>.
  4. Colvin, Heather M., and Abigail E. Mitchell. Hepatitis and Liver Cancer: A National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis B and C. Washington, DC: National Academies, 2010. Print.
  5. “Hepatitis B.” WHO.int. World Health Organization, July 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/>.

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