Asian Liver Center at Holy Name Medical Center Receives $85,000 in Grants to Support Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign
Teaneck, NJ - The Asian Liver Center at Holy Name Medical Center was recently awarded two grants in support of its Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign. The funds, which total $85,000, are from the Gilead Foundation ($75,000), a non-profit organization funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc., that provides monies to projects addressing health disparities and unmet needs; and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($10,000), the biopharmaceutical company. Holy Name's Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign consists of education and prevention initiatives, screening, and disease surveillance for Asian-Americans, a population identified as one of the leading carriers of this serious and potentially deadly disease.
This is the second year in a row that the Asian Liver Center, which is under the auspices of Holy Name's Korean Medical Program, has obtained support from the Gilead Foundation and Bristol-Myers Squibb. The 2011 grant from Gilead exceeds last year's gift by 50 percent. According to Chul S. Hyun, MD, PhD, gastroenterologist and medical director of the Asian Liver Center, "these successive grants not only signify those organizations' recognition of our achievements, but are also a testament to the Asian Liver Center's passion and commitment to our community." Dr. Hyun further notes that the Asian Liver Center at Holy Name is "the only such program in Bergen County to be awarded substantial grants by such highly respected biomedical and philanthropic organizations."
Motivated by the disproportionate number of Asians at risk for or infected with hepatitis B, and the serious health consequences of hepatitis B for individuals and communities, Dr. Hyun sought support for the Center's Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign by authoring the fundraising proposals and working with the Gilead Foundation and Bristol-Myers Squibb to establish the necessity for philanthropic support. Dr. Hyun says he and the Asian Liver Center are honored to serve as models for other physicians and healthcare organizations who are interested in identifying community health needs, developing related programs and services, and in taking a proactive role in securing the funding to make those initiatives a reality.
In 2010, Holy Name's Asian Liver Center administered hepatitis B blood tests (HBcAb, HBsAb, HBsAg) to 1,656 people at various locations in the Asian-American community, primarily, houses of worship. Of those, 214 individuals subsequently received the hepatitis B vaccine at the Medical Center. Consultation and treatment services were provided to 119. The 2011 plan has comparable goals of testing, vaccination and treating similar numbers of individuals.
Virus endemic to many Asian populations
According to Dr. Hyun, the hepatitis B virus is endemic to many Asian populations abroad, especially those in Korea, China, Vietnam and certain parts of Africa, as well as to many Asians in America. He estimates that up to 10 percent of Asian-Americans may carry the hepatitis B virus, compared with 0.2 percent of the white population in the U.S. Up to 25 percent of virus carriers can develop life-limiting and potentially fatal complications, including cirrhosis [scarring] of the liver and liver cancer. For this reason, Dr. Hyun advocates educating and screening those at risk.
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from mild and lasting a few weeks (acute) to a serious, lifelong illness (chronic). The hepatitis B virus is spread through blood, semen and other body fluids infected with the virus. It can also be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with chronic hepatitis B infection should receive care and regular monitoring from a physician experienced in the treatment of hepatitis B.
Only such program in the metro area
The Asian Liver Center offers prevention initiatives, including vaccination and education. It conducts screenings to detect hepatitis B carriers (people infected with chronic hepatitis B) and determines if they are candidates for anti-viral therapy. For those with advanced illness, the Center can offer minimally invasive treatments through Holy Name's Interventional Institute and surgery, if necessary.
"Through the Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign, we reach out to low-income and uninsured people at risk for hepatitis B," says Kyung-Hee Choi, Director of the Korean Medical Program, "and we work with them through every step of their care management needs."
Beyond its comprehensive services, the Asian Liver Center further differentiates itself from similar programs by personalizing the care environment specifically to Asians. "Many organizations screen and educate," explains Dr. Hyun, "but so often, the follow-up is not there. Some patients enter the system, others get 'lost' because of the barriers posed by language and culture. At Holy Name, we have learned that speaking the language and understanding the culture are essential to increasing compliance with health care advice. This has helped us establish close ties and a level of trust with the Asian community. There is no program like this in the metropolitan area."
For more information about Holy Name Medical Center's Asian Liver Center and the Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign, call 201-833-3399.