The Hepatitis B Coalition of Washington celebrates 10th anniversary with ICHS in its public forum
This Thursday, May 25, the Hepatitis B Coalition of Washington (HBCW) will host its annual Community Forum on Hepatitis B from 6:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. at the Langston Hughes Performing Art Institute. For the past 10 years that the Coalition has been housed within ICHS, they have hosted an open forum on the last Thursday of May, in honor of Hepatitis Awareness Month, as a way to bring in and inform the community on the latest developments and issues related to hepatitis.
“Our forum aims at raising awareness in the affected communities, raising or increasing screening and vaccination rates in the communities, and engaging with care,” Mohammed Abdul-Kadir, coordinator of the Hepatitis B Coalition of Washington, said. “[We are] generally just informing the medical community or anyone interested in the care for providers to be just discussed.”
Hepatitis B, unfortunately, disproportionately impacts the Asian Pacific Islander communities and African communities, as well as the queer, homeless, and incarcerated patients. Furthermore, when most people without chronic illnesses receive their routine tests, Hepatitis B tests are not included unless you request them even if you are a part of an at risk group. Thus, to be effective in reaching at-risk populations the Coalition hosts their annual forum in order to reach not only their stakeholders, but the public as well.
Whether you are an individual who happens to be impacted by Hepatitis B yourself, or have someone in your family or someone in your community who suffers from the illness, you can come and expect to gain knowledge and awareness on the subject. While normally the forum consists of a panel with open discussion to the public, this year’s format is different.
This year’s forum also marks the 10th year that the Hepatitis B Coalition has been housed within ICHS. Since joining hands with ICHS, the Coalition has managed to extend their reach to about 3600 people every year, and raised their coalition membership from 12 to 26. Abdul-Kadir said that if it wasn’t for ICHS, he doesn’t know if any of the impact the Coalition has made in the past 10 years would have been able to happen.
"All of us at ICHS understand that it takes a team,” said Sherryl Grey, ICHS director of community health services. “It takes a diverse coalition of stakeholders and community partners to achieve the lofty goal of a Washington State free of new Hepatitis B infections.”
The initial panel will be less of an open discussion and more informational, offering a layman’s breakdown of Hepatitis B awareness, with a Q&A following. The event will also include food and drinks as well as games and puzzles to help the audience cement what they learn and increase their knowledge of Hepatitis.
They also plan to unveil a new interactive website for people to learn about Hepatitis B, created with the Department of Health, Washington. The Department of Health will also have a speaker for the panel. Speakers will additionally include an advocate from the Coalition who works at the national and state level and will speak about advocacy work in introducing policies at Washington's legislature, and a partner from Tacoma Pierce County Doctor who will speak about Hepatitis B in the COVID era or post COVID era and how patients are impacted by COVID.
All of this work comes in hand with the Coalitions work at large, which has helped thousands of patients get screened and cope with Hepatitis B. As much work as they put in, they are striving towards an international goal to eradicate Hepatitis B by 2030.
“[The Coalition] is working daily to increase awareness, screenings, vaccinations and access to care,” Grey said. “HBCW and their community partners use culturally and linguistically appropriate strategies to move us closer to that goal each day."
“We're optimistic that it's achievable,” Abdul-Kadir said. “It is doable, but the work needs to be done [with the help of the public].”