#2: The Missing Link in Eliminating Viral Hepatitis B & C
’s newest online contributor, Thelma King Thiel, RN, BA, is the former CEO of both the American Liver Foundation and the Hepatitis Foundation International. She is the current organizer of the Liver Health Initiative. According to Ms. Thiel, the enormous gaps in education about liver health in the United States has led to “an enormous national pool of uninformed individuals” regarding liver health.
Ms. Thiel writes that the United States has seen a 150% increase in the incidence of hepatitis C (HCV), and 40% of liver cancer cases are being attributed to the virus. Because HCV can largely be prevented by foregoing many risky behaviors, this is evidence that a lack of education on these behaviors and their effects is largely lacking in the United States. Ms. Theil states that most individuals are unaware of how the liver is ultimately responsible for “the maintenance of multiple body functions that support their health and life itself.” Therefore, liver-damaging behaviors are having a profound impact on their health.
Most of us are aware that drug and alchohol use and misuse contribute to liver disease, but illnesses such as obesity, fatty liver, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and early onset diabetes also expose individuals to hepatitis infection. Studies, such as the Study to Reduce Intravenous Exposure (STRIVE) research project, have proven that “education is the key to prevention.” Additional studies have shown that, “once informed of a few vitally important liver functions they could relate to in their daily lives, individuals were motivated to avoid liver damaging activities and to adopt healthier food and lifestyle behaviors.”
These education efforts need to span across demographics in order to be effective. Education on the liver needs to be provided in schools, as well as government agencies and the military, in order to empower everyone to actively take an interest in their own liver health.
to read more about how education is the missing link in eliminating HCV and hepatitis B.