A new innovative pilot targeting chronic hepatitis C is being launched in the Bay of Plenty.
The programme, launched in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Bay of Plenty DHB, aims to significantly improve health outcomes and access to care for people living with this disease.
A new pilot programme targeting chronic hepatitis C is being launched in Tauranga Hospital.
Chronic hepatitis C is the main cause of liver transplantation in New Zealand.
The Hepatitis Foundation Despite CEO John Hornell says despite the serious nature of the disease, most people know very little about hepatitis C.
“Hepatitis C has been ignored for too long.
“Now is the time to confront this disease, to tackle it head on and to win the fight.”
Hepatitis C is a global health issue, as recognised by the World Health Organisation.
In New Zealand there are approximately 50,000 people living with chronic hepatitis C – more than 75 per cent of these people are unaware they have the disease as they don’t experience signs or symptoms for decades after infection.
Hepatitis C project manager Kelly Barclay says the integrated hepatitis C pilot aims to increase the number of people diagnosed, assessed and treated for hepatitis C.
“It will involve a hepatitis nurse delivering specialist care in the community. The goal is to provide those with hepatitis C with better access to testing, care and support where they live. This will help them make lifestyle changes to slow the progression of the disease before they consider treatment.”
In the coming months, the Hepatitis Foundation will be working closely with General Practitioners, specialists and other health providers to enrol those with hepatitis C onto a Community Assessment and Support Programme.
The Community Hepatitis C Nurse will provide enrolled patients with an initial FibroScan assessment (a non-invasive new ultrasound technique to assess the level of liver disease), blood tests, on-going support and education, and will liaise with health providers to centrally manage patients’ needs.
In the majority of cases, Fibroscan takes away the need for liver biopsy altogether.
The Bay of Plenty DHB will be backing this pilot across the region.
BOPDHB CEO Phil Cammish says the innovative approach being introduced with this improved service should make a big difference to the lives of people with hepatitis C.
“This service will bring together all parts of the health service to address this health need.”
Early 2013, a public campaign will be launched to identify people who are at risk or have been at risk of contracting hepatitis C and are currently undiagnosed.
“We’ll be actively encouraging people to get tested if they are or have been at risk of hepatitis C.
“It’s important people are diagnosed as early as possible.”
Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact. The virus causes inflammation of the liver, which can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer if left undiagnosed.
Current treatment provides 45-80 per cent chance of cure (depending on the disease strain).
The Hepatitis Foundation (NZ) is a charitable trust promoting positive health outcomes for people living with chronic hepatitis.