By Henry Mark (@henrymark88)
The first guest post on the MScGH blog from Jeffrey Lazarus provides a number of key insights into the challenges of combating viral hepatitis in Europe; and it certainly will be a challenge. Yet there is room for optimism, as one of only 4 disease-specific world health days we can all hope that viral hepatitis is getting some of the recognition it needs. Developments, such as new Hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment, can only help increase the profile of this group of infectious diseases, yet with each development comes new questions, like how can these new very expensive drugs be delivered in an equitable manner to all who could benefit?
There are some broader themes within the article that will resonate with people from different sectors and specialities.
Overall I was left querying our global health perspective of Europe. It seems somewhat ironic that as global health students and professionals we are continually looking to travel thousands of miles to low and middle-income countries away in search of a worthy challenge, while often little precedence is given to the challenges we face closer to home. Hepatitis is a clear example of this. Perhaps the lure of travel or personal exploration draws us far afield, but we should all keep in mind Europe is no utopia, with issues equally deserving of our attention.
The second part of the article that resonated with me is the issue of moving forward with the implementation of programmes and policies that are only supported by patchy evidence. In all areas of science, programmes and policy we face a common conundrum, how to progress in the face of unknowns. In many scenarios it’s all too easy to be frozen to inaction. Yet academia moves at a pedestrian pace, making filling the evidence gaps a somewhat aroused process. In the mean time we have to ensure we use what knowledge we do have to its full potential. I think Jeff makes a vital point about working with the whole community on this aspect. Academic research is but one piece of the puzzle, a huge amount can be learnt from programme implementers, policy makers, activists and patients that can help bridge information gaps and ensure we keep moving forward.
It is great to see hepatitis getting some coverage and I would highly recommend following the events at the upcoming ‘European HCV Initiative’ conference on the 23rd-24th of this month.