In May 2010, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing hepatitis as a global public health problem. Even prior to that, WHO/Europe had been spearheading the response to hepatitis in three key ways by:
- supporting hepatitis immunization programmes;
- providing technical guidance; and
- arranging prevalence surveys.
Throughout the Region, WHO/Europe has supported programmes that provide routine immunizations against hepatitis B to infants and children. As a result, the number of reported cases of acute hepatitis B has fallen dramatically over the last ten years. One example of these routine immunizations can be found in a project in Ukraine that extended hepatitis B vaccinations to hard-to-reach populations, reaching out to those most at risk.
WHO/Europe provides Member States with important technical guidance on how to respond effectively to hepatitis. For example, clinical protocols have been developed on the management of hepatitis B and HIV co-infection, and the prevention of hepatitis A, B, C and other hepatotoxic factors in people living with HIV. These protocols are available in both English and Russian. They have been adapted for national use by countries and are being used as clinical guidance in daily practice across the Region. WHO/Europe has also played a pivotal role in the development of WHO’s global guidance on programmatic issues related to prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis in people who inject drugs.
WHO/Europe has supported efforts to increase the availability of information about hepatitis in the Region by arranging sentinel surveys of the prevalence of hepatitis B and C in populations at increased risk of infection in some of its Member States.
What additional progress can be achieved with more resources?
With increased human and financial resources more could be done to strengthen the response to hepatitis in the Region. WHO/Europe would specifically support countries in:
- developing an overall regional strategy that uses a comprehensive integrated approach;
- increasing political commitment in Member States to prevent and control chronic viral hepatitis;
- assessing the current situation, defining appropriate policies and building national capacity;
- strengthening hepatitis prevention by integrating into existing health systems and services, including blood transfusion services, immunization programmes, national cancer programmes, STI services, HIV services and specific programmes for people who inject drugs;
- enhancing hepatitis surveillance and early detection; and
- improving case management and access to diagnosis and treatment; and cooperating with a broad network of regional and national organizations and bodies.