Stakeholder Input Vital to Extension of Viral Hepatitis Action Plan

Content From: Daniel Raymond, Policy Director, Harm Reduction CoalitionPublished: June 17, 20133 min read


Daniel Raymond Daniel RaymondThe recent announcement by Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh that the federal government’s Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis will be renewed for another three years is welcome news, as is the invitation from HHS for stakeholders to offer input on what should be included, expanded, or changed in the 2014-2016 extension of the Plan.

The 2011 launch of the original Action Plan signaled an unprecedented level of focus and coordination among federal agencies committed to responding to the challenges of the viral hepatitis epidemic. Despite significant progress on a wide range of actions outlined in the Action Plan, more work remains as we enter a critical juncture in the fight against hepatitis B and hepatitis C. The voices, ideas, and engagement of community stakeholders, advocates, and people living with chronic viral hepatitis will be critical in shaping this next chapter.

At the time of the release of the first Action Plan, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a strong national network of community coalitions addressing hepatitis B, has launched efforts to share strategies, best practices, and resources. However, much work remains in building a culturally and linguistically competent clinical workforce, and to eliminate perinatal hepatitis B transmission.

Amidst all of these changes, two things are clear: federal leadership has had a galvanizing effect in bringing new focus and coordination to the response to viral hepatitis, and the federal agencies cannot bring an end to these epidemics alone. Federal initiatives must be complemented by state and local innovations. They must also be informed by and responsive to the needs and insights of local communities, clinicians, and people at risk for and living with chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C. We all have a stake in ending the viral hepatitis epidemic; so as stakeholders, we should take advantage of the opportunity to contribute to the development and implementation of the next phase of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan.

The HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, which coordinates and supports cross-agency efforts to implement the Action Plan, has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit stakeholder input on the extension of the Action Plan. To share your ideas and feedback – including suggestions for how federal agencies can better collaborate with non-governmental stakeholders – review the RFI and send responses by July 5, 2013. (For background, read the current Action Plan and the first year Implementation Progress Report .)

Your input can strengthen the renewal of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and enhance national efforts to achieve its long-term goals of increasing the proportion of persons aware of their hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection infections, reducing the number of new cases of hepatitis C infection, and eliminating mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B.