As Congress prepares to shine a spotlight this week on chronic viral hepatitis, the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) today launched a new targeted print advertising campaign to urge swift action on bipartisan legislation providing federal funding for state-based screening and early intervention programs.
NVHR's new advertising initiative comes in advance of a hearing Thursday, June 17, before the full House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, chaired by Chairman Ed Towns (D-NY) and Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). The Committee has invited testimony from a diverse panel of witnesses who will offer strategies for implementing expert recommendations made earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
NVHR is a coalition of more than 175 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans.
"NVHR's new advertising initiative is a timely reminder to Congress, the Administration, and all stakeholders that federal action is desperately needed this year to help combat this insidious disease that affects over 5 million Americans and their loved ones," said Lorren Sandt, chair of the NVHR and executive director of Caring Ambassadors Program, based in Portland, Ore. "Six months ago, the Institute of Medicine issued nearly two-dozen expert recommendations for improving the federal government's response to the viral hepatitis epidemic. The pressing challenge now before Congress and the Administration is to provide federal funding to translate the IOM report into swift and decisive action."
Under the banner of "Mission: Possible," NVHR's new advertisement highlights the IOM report and urges action on HR 3974. The advertisement also features the tagline "If Congress gets on the case now, the leading cause of liver cancer won't stand a chance."
Thursday's hearing before the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is an important step forward in this fight. An estimated 5.3 million Americans have been infected with chronic viral hepatitis B or C – and with most unaware of their infection, millions are at risk of developing life-threatening complications, especially African Americans and Asian Americans. Without detection and treatment, chronic viral hepatitis leads to liver cancer, cirrhosis or liver failure. In the absence of federal leadership, the research firm Milliman estimates that public and private payers' cost of treating chronic viral hepatitis C alone will more than triple by 2024 to $85 billion annually. Medicare and Medicaid would absorb a disproportionate share of these added costs.
HR 3974, "The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act," is sponsored by Representatives Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Charles Dent (R-Pa.) and 49 other House Members and would help turn the tide. The Honda-Dent legislation would increase the ability of the CDC to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance, and referral to care efforts. Much of the Honda-Dent legislation tracks with the IOM's recommendations.