July 25, 2016 / All Stories

How a world free from viral hepatitis is possible

On the heels of World Hepatitis Day, advocacy leader Raquel Peck reflects on what viral hepatitis elimination means, the significance of 2030 and her Haribo candy love. 

2016 is a pivotal year for the World Hepatitis Alliance as they prepare to launch the “NOhep”  global elimination movement on World Hepatitis Day (WHD), July 28.

Born out of the call for a strong unifying initiative by the hepatitis community at the 2015 World Hepatitis Summit, NOhep provides a platform for people to speak out, be engaged and take action to ensure global commitments are met and viral hepatitis is eliminated by 2030. 

We spoke with Raquel Peck, World Hepatitis Alliance’s chief executive officer, to get additional insight into the first ever Elimination Strategy for Viral Hepatitis” by World Health Organization (WHO) Member States, what elimination of hepatitis by 2030 means and how the World Hepatitis Alliance’s NOhep global movement will be the platform to amplify the message around the world. 

Raquel Peck, CEO, World Hepatitis Alliance

Can you tell us more about your personal interest in eliminating hepatitis?

Hepatitis B and C are two major public health challenges for which a solution exists and yet, until very recently, nothing was being done to tackle them. 

I’ve also seen firsthand the impact of hepatitis B in my family and I myself was diagnosed with hepatitis C 11 years ago so as you can imagine, I am incredibly passionate about this area and have been doing what I can to help eliminate these illnesses from the planet.

How has hepatitis impacted society?

Each year, up to 1.4 million people die worldwide of viral hepatitis, that’s more than HIV or malaria. Not only does hepatitis directly affect the 400 million people living with it, it has knock on effects in terms of health care spending, labor productivity and mortality. 

Stigma and discrimination, at an individual, community and government level, are cited as the main reasons for the perpetuating global burden of viral hepatitis. 

Can you tell us more about the significance of being on the WHO’s global strategy?

Viral hepatitis has been neglected for a while at the policy and political levels. We’ve had game-changer advancements in the past year. 

In late May, at the 69th annual World Health Assembly, 194 governments adopted the WHO’s first ever Global Health Sector Strategy for Viral Hepatitis (GHSS). The strategy sets a goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030 and includes prevention and treatment targets.

If these targets are reached, we will reduce annual deaths by 65 percent and increase treatment to 80 percent, saving 7.1 million lives globally by 2030.

What do you think the elimination of hepatitis means from a patient and societal perspective?

For some patients, it’s a life free from worry, a life full of opportunities and a life free from stigma and discrimination. For others it means waking up not feeling tired, and even saving money.

At a societal level, the elimination of a global disease demonstrates the advances in technology and medicine, innovative ways of thinking (financing, awareness raising, etc.), and provides an illustrative example to other disease areas. It also shows how history can be made if stakeholders, including patients, governments, health care professionals and industry, work together. 

How does the World Hepatitis Alliance effectively represent the patient voice in the fight against such a widespread disease?

We provide global leadership to drive action to help eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. We do this in a variety of ways including:

  • Bringing thought leaders and country-level advocates together – In 2015, we held the first ever World Hepatitis Summit, which convened more than 500 delegates from 84 countries. In March 2017, the second Summit will be held in Brazil (find out more here).
  • Celebrating globally together – Each year, we celebrate World Hepatitis Day on July 28. Millions of people across the world now take part to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, and to call for access to treatment, better prevention programs and governments’ action. 
  • Amplifying the patient voice – We continue to ensure the voice of patients are at the forefront of high level policy discussions (i.e., by addressing WHO Executive Board and the World Health Assembly, contributing to WHO’s regional committee meetings, participating in civil society reference groups, etc.).

So, it sounds like there is a lot being done by the World Hepatitis Alliance and at the non-governmental organization and political level. Is there more that can be done?

More does need to be done. One hundred and twenty five countries still don’t have national strategies for viral hepatitis and many more will need to invest heavily into developing the resources needed to meet these targets. 

Our global elimination movement,  NOhep will act as an accountability and advocacy tool, ensuring governments take the necessary steps needed to meet the targets outlined and the goal of elimination.

Tell us more about the global NOhep campaign.

To mark World Hepatitis Day, the World Hepatitis Alliance, together with a large number of civil society organizations, will launch NOhep, which aims to unite those working in the field of hepatitis and others from across the world around one common goal: the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030. 

How can people get involved?

It’s easy! Everybody can get involved. You can join the movement and become a supporter by:

  • Signing up: Go to NOhep.org and sign up by entering your contact information. Once registered, you will receive breaking information on our campaigns around the world and be able to take immediate action. 
  • Using #NOhep: On social platforms and materials, use the #NOhep when discussing hepatitis. You can also follow our social platforms to stay connected.
  • Sharing your content: We are always on the lookout for fresh content to upload on the website to share with our supporters. 
  • Becoming a Heptivist: Heptivists are NOhep’s most committed members and the foundation of all that we do. They are taking action all over the world at this moment with the aim to eliminate viral hepatitis. Find out how to join this brigade of everyday heroes on the website!

Can you tell us one thing about you that your colleagues would be surprised to learn?

Besides having an addiction to Haribo candy, I grew up wanting to be a famous actress in a Brazilian Telenovela.
I know (insert sarcasm). 

AbbVie actively supports programs designed to raise public awareness, mobilize and equip the community to prioritize and control the global burden of hepatitis C.

For more information about how we’re celebrating World Hepatitis Day, please visit us at AbbVie.com, follow us on Twitter @abbvie and learn more about the World Hepatitis Alliance movement at NOhep.org and follow on Twitter @NOhep.

About hepatitis

Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver. It's usually the result of the hepatitis viruses, which are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g., alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These five types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. 

Hepatitis B and C are the most prevalent of the viruses, leading to chronic disease in up to 400 million people worldwide, and together cause 80 percent of liver cancer.

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David Freundel
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Tags: Virology