For many years liver disorders have been seen as Taiwan’s national disease. As a result, liver disease management has been identified as the government’s top public health priority. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) are the two key risk factors for liver cancer. How can the government, physicians, public health experts and the pharmaceutical industry work together even more closely to decrease liver disease in Taiwan?
At a November 7 luncheon presentation sponsored by AmCham Taipei’s Public Health Committee at the Regent Taipei, Dr. Chen Ding-Shinn, an Academician of Academic Sinica, and Dr. Pwu Raoh-Fang, Director of the National Hepatitis C Program Office under the Ministry of Health and Welfare, shared their experiences on liver disease management.
Dr. Chen introduced Taiwan’s Viral Hepatitis Control Program that was implemented in the 1980s and explained factors that contributed to the success of the program. But educational programs designed to inform citizens of the importance of vaccinations and treatments are not enough, said Chen. He noted that several challenges remain, as the prevalence of liver disease is still on the rise:
- Most people who contract HBC or HCV infections are unaware that they are infected
- Many with known chronic infections are reluctant or refuse to receive treatment
- Reimbursement of medical treatments is not ideal
- The screening of HBV/HCV infection is still inadequate
- Existing data on subjects who have previously been screened for HBsAg (also known as the Australia antigen) /anti-HCV is not well-utilized
- The number of physicians participating in the treatment program is still inadequate
Following Chen’s presentation, Dr. Pwu provided an overview on how Taiwan will meet the ambitious target of the World Health Organization (WHO) for ending viral hepatitis. He identified two key strategies for achieving this goal: 1) setting a target number of patients to be treated, and 2) aligning with the WHO and improving cross-department collaboration. In closing, Pwu reminded the audience that Taiwan has both the ambition and ability to become a world leader in hepatitis elimination by 2030. It will take both passion and wisdom to achieve this goal, however.
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