In 2014, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Assembly unanimously adopted resolution WHA67.6, which urged Member States and the WHO Director-General to enhance efforts in viral hepatitis surveillance, prevention, treatment access, and disease control. This resolution tasked the WHO with assessing the feasibility of elimination targets for hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) viruses. As a result, the WHO is developing a Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, 2016-2021, due to be released later this year, to guide global action and supplement existing activities in addressing viral hepatitis.
In response to these developments at the global level, the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis and the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) have commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to determine the feasibility of setting national HBV and HCV elimination targets in the United States. To carry out this feasibility study, the IOM has convened an expert panel to examine relevant scientific and policy issues. The initial report is anticipated to be released in April 2016. The IOM is a division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.
Depending on the conclusions of the April report, the IOM may initiate a second phase of activity that involves preparing an expert consensus report. This final report would outline elimination targets to be reached by the year 2030, key barriers and facilitators to success, and stakeholder roles and responsibilities. The second phase is expected to take approximately 10 months to complete.
IOM Findings to Inform Update of National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan
In 2014, HHS released the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (2014-2016) (Action Plan), an update to the first comprehensive, national, cross-agency plan that provides a framework around which federal and nonfederal stakeholders can focus viral hepatitis activities. In a December blog post, we shared the 2014 Federal Implementation Progress Report, which highlights the work being conducted by our federal partners to improve outcomes for those living with and at risk for viral hepatitis. Building on these efforts, this year, the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy is facilitating a collaborative process to update the Action Plan for 2017–2020. This update will be informed by the IOM’s Phase 1 findings and the WHO draft global strategy, as well as input from many important nonfederal viral hepatitis stakeholders and community members.
While federal efforts are vital in addressing viral hepatitis, most of the work to educate, test, and link people into care takes place in health care and community settings like clinics and hospitals, health departments and community-based organizations. Private industry also plays a major role, developing and manufacturing vaccines, therapies, and diagnostics as well as supporting community-based efforts. As such, it is clear that the active involvement and innovation by a broad mix of stakeholders from many sectors will be essential to achieving the goals of the Action Plan as well as any national viral hepatitis elimination goals that may be developed.
The IOM analysis is expected to provide additional information and recommendations that will inform the update of the national Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and lead to more robust viral hepatitis response in the United States. Together, these documents will provide a strong foundation for moving us toward our nation’s goals for 2020 and beyond.
Corinna Dan, RN, MPH, is the viral hepatitis policy advisor in the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This article was originally published on AIDS.gov.