GW Researchers Awarded $1.5 Million by the Office of Minority Health to Study Hepatitis B-associated Liver Disease

An estimated 850,000 to 2.2 million people in the United States are living with Chronic Hepatitis B. Just one-third of people living with Chronic Hepatitis B are diagnosed. A research team from the George Washington University (GW) received a $1.5 million grant from the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to reduce and evaluate liver diseases attributable to Hepatitis B virus (HBV) through screening, vaccination and follow-up in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore metro area. The team is led by Y. Tony Yang, ScD, LLM, MPH, executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at GW’s School of Nursing and a professor of health policy and management at GW Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH).

“Hepatitis B, responsible for half of all deaths from liver cancer and a third of all deaths from liver cirrhosis, is a hidden threat both to public health and to patients themselves,” said Yang, the principal investigator for the grant. “Tools and strategies are needed to prevent and treat it. It's time to build capacity for scale-up HBV vaccination, testing and linkage to care services and surveillance to advance progress toward national hepatitis B elimination goals.”

The grant seeks to test the implementation of comprehensive, culturally competent community-based hepatitis B education, screening, vaccination and treatment programs in disadvantaged as well as racial and ethnic minority communities. The program was created in consultation with the HHS Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Division of Viral Hepatitis.

The award is intended to identify best practices that can be adopted by other government, community and private organizations to help reach HHS’ ultimate goal of ending HBV transmission and reducing morbidity and mortality attributable to HIV infections that often co-occur with HBV. The funded project will implement strategic partnerships between community-based organizations serving communities at risk, departments of health, perinatal hepatitis B programs, safety net providers, research centers, and healthcare facilities, consistent with strategic actions recommended by the National Academies of Medicine.

The grant will focus on persons born in countries where HBV infection is endemic; U.S.-born persons not vaccinated as infants whose parents were born in countries with a very high prevalence of HBV infection; household contacts or sexual partners of persons with HBV infection; and infants/children/adolescents who might otherwise go untreated.

GW faculty working on the project include Irene Kuo, PhD, MPH, associate research professor of epidemiology at Milken Institute SPH; Eduardo Sotomayor, MD, director of the GW Cancer Center; Sherrie Flynt Wallington, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Nursing; and Daisy Le, PhD, MA, a visiting assistant research professor at the School of Nursing. Evaluation of this project will involve the compilation of population-based data obtained from community-based programs’ reporting of activities; surveillance data from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia; and clinical electronic medical record data.

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