Hep B prevention education offered to B.C. newcomers

SUCCESS and the provincial government are launching a new program to educate immigrant communities about Hepatitis B.

Developed by SUCCESS, the Let’s Talk about B program provides education, awareness and support for immigrant communities in British Columbia who are most at risk of having hepatitis B.

“Newcomers to British Columbia are a valuable part of the productive, rich culture of our province,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “We are committed to working together to help all British Columbians lead healthy lives, and this program is an excellent part of an overall strategy to engage those at-risk or living with viral hepatitis to get tested and treated.”

It is estimated that one in 17 new immigrants are infected with chronic hepatitis B in British Columbia. Many are left undiagnosed or untreated because symptoms of the disease do not appear until after the liver is severely damaged. Individuals born in Asian countries have a three to 12 times higher risk of contracting hepatitis B and developing a chronic infection than Canadian born individuals, often because vaccination and testing is less standardized internationally.

“Hepatitis B is an important health issue among the immigrant community,” said SUCCESS CEO Queenie Choo. “Through education, we are able to increase awareness of, build knowledge around and better manage the risk factors of hepatitis B among at risk populations in British Columbia. Hence, these people will have a better chance to live healthier and more productive lives.”

“The long-term effects for those with undiagnosed and untreated hepatitis B are extremely serious,” said head of the Division of Gastroenterology at UBC, Dr. Eric Yoshida. “Twenty-five to 30 per cent of these patients will die early because of cirrhosis or cancer. This program will go a long way to helping those with hepatitis B live longer, healthier lives.”

Through online resources, workshops and other materials, the Let’s Talk about B program targets high-risk communities – motivating individuals to get tested for hepatitis B. The program is available in a variety of languages including Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Tagalog and English and encourages open and honest dialogue with health care professionals and family members.

For more information about the program, visit www.hepb.successbc.ca.

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