The Midlandsregion’s first community-based Hepatitis B screening program is to launch in Birmingham’s Aracdian Centre later this month. To mark World Hepatitis Day on July 28th, medics fromBirminghamHeartlandsHospital, in co-operation with the city’s Chinese Community Centre, are taking a new hepatitis screening programme on the road – in order to test people who might otherwise be missed.
Hepatitis B is a ‘silent’ infection of the liver. Over many years the virus can damage the liver and result in liver failure and liver cancer. It is estimated that 326,000 people in theUKhave been infected by Hepatitis B, and many of them will be entirely unaware. This poses a difficulty for doctors trying to treat the disease – because too few people are being tested for the infection, patients are presented to doctors far too late.
“The current programme is an attempt to take HIV testing into the community, and bypass the traditional routes patients would ordinarily need to take in order to get tested,” explained Dr Neil Jenkins, a consultant specialising in hepatitis atHeartlandsHospital.
In theUKit is estimated that 1 in 350 people are affected by the chronic Hepatitis B infection. The Chinese community is disproportionately affected by the virus, where it spreads in families usually due to mother-to-child transmission. Studies have estimated that up to 1 in 10 people of Chinese ethnic origin in theUKhave the virus.
The project targets the Chinese community ofBirmingham, which has been traditionally hard to reach. “Undiagnosed hepatitis represents a significant health risk, since it makes onwards transmission more likely,” said Dr Steve Taylor, a consultant atHeartlandsHospital. “Rates of newly acquired hepatitis have sharply increased in recent years, both in theWest Midlandsand nationally.”
The year-long program will launch at an awareness and screening event on Tuesday 31 July at the Arcadian,12.30 to 3pm. The Hepatitis B test will be done with a simple finger-prick test, with results available in two weeks.
“We’ll be taking a mobile bus to the Chinese communities inBirmingham,” said Melinda Munang, a hepatitis specialist based at Heartlands, “and by working with the Chinese Community Centre we’ll be able to understand the concerns people have about hepatitis much better. This cultural aspect of the program will enable us to test for and treat hepatitis much more effectively, in this community and others.”
The screening program will offer free finger-prick Hepatitis B tests at the Chinese Community Centre-Birminghamevery other Thursday following the launch. Further outreach community screening sessions are planned throughout the year. The program is also supported by the charity Saving Lives, and a team of volunteers from theUniversityofBirmingham’s medical school.
My work concerns Hep B and I am currently doing work with the Chinese community of Leeds, in particular looking at commissioning a community awareness and testing project. I would really benefit from a conversation with someone who was involved in your work in Birmingham – in particular about how much this project cost, what was the impact of the approach and is there any learning or best practice you could share with me.
Many thanks in advance
Hi, Rachel – thanks for getting in touch. Look out for an email from us – we’ll put you in touch with the right people.