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Thelma King Thiel, RN, BA has dedicated her life to promoting liver health for the past 47 years since the loss of her infant son Dean to biliary atresia. Ms. Thiel has served as the CEO of both the American Liver Foundation and the Hepatitis Foundation International for a total of 35 years, and has trained thousands of healthcare providers about liver health. Ms. Thiel recently came out of retirement to organize the Liver Health Initiative, to fill the enormous liver health knowledge gap and empower individuals to understand why and how to protect their miraculous life sustaining liver. Promoting primary prevention through liver health education is Ms. Thiel's ultimate goal.

Liver Health Education Gets The Silent Treatment

The final draft of the National Academy of Science's Strategy for Eliminating Viral Hepatitis B & C has been published, and yet again, liver health education is absent in their recommendations. How do we eliminate hepatitis, if individuals do not know how to prevent it in the first place?

The National Academy of Science (NAS), charged with the task of developing a National Strategy for Eliminating Viral Hepatitis B and C, convened a committee of 17 experts in the field to collaborate on the report. A review of the Phase 1 draft of the NAS report identified a glaring absence of any mention of promoting primary prevention methods, including liver information as an essential component in efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis at the start. 

Despite enthusiastic support from the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, American College of Gastroenterology and other professional and patient organizations, none of the 12 strategies listed in the NAS final report mentioned primary prevention or liver health education. 

Organizations, representing over 30,000 liver specialists, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare providers shared their sense of urgency with the committee members to ensure that liver health education be included in the future NAS recommendations for eliminating viral hepatitis. Prevention advocates immediately shared research studies with the committee that identified the positive impact learning about the liver had on reducing risk behaviors among injection drug users and improving immunization rates among homeless children, specifically in Baltimore, Maryland.  

These front-line liver health professionals are keenly aware of the devastating impact a lack of understanding about the importance of the liver has had on their patient’s health, from initial exposure, diagnosis, through controlling their disease, and optimizing treatment and recovery. They agree that the missing piece in efforts to eliminate hepatitis, drug abuse, and numerous other liver-related diseases including obesity and diabetes . . .is arming individuals early in life with liver health information to empower them to develop healthier food and lifestyle behaviors.

However, the urgent request by thousands of healthcare professionals that the NAS committee include a recommendation that liver information/education be made available in schools and government and military agencies was not included in the NAS recommendations. NAS supports treatment, including expensive drug treatment therapy, but was completely silent on the prevention and education components of dealing with this health crisis. 

Tragically, uninformed individuals will continue to participate in liver-damaging activities until they learn about why and how to protect their life-sustaining liver against hepatitis and other liver-related diseases. 

Education is the key to prevention. Liver health is the Missing Link.
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