Hepatitis C has fast become an important Public Health concern in 2019, that if not treated, can lead to not only increased healthcare utilization costs in the coming years but can lead to poor quality of life for patients including cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 3.5 million people in the United States have Chronic Hepatitis C1. Between the years of 2010 – 2014, there was an estimated 250% increase in reported HCV cases and that number is rising as the opiate epidemic continues. Patients who should be screened include patients born between the years of 1945-1965, patients who share needles or drug paraphernalia, patients who have gotten tattoos at unlicensed locations, or blood transfusions before 1992.3 The CDC and the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) are trying to increase awareness of healthcare professionals to the need for increased screening and treatment initiatives in non-traditional settings1,2,3.
Providers at UNC Wakebrook Primary Care have been treating Hepatitis C for patients who have been diagnosed with Chronic Hepatitis C as well as Substance Use Disorder and/or Severe Persistent Mental Illness. This project is in collaboration with UNC Infectious Disease with ongoing support from David Wohl, MD and Christopher Hurt, MD. The goal of the project is to get patients treated for Hepatitis C while also providing information on harm reduction resources, options for mental health resources in the community, and connections for ongoing abstinence no matter the patients’ insurance status. Many of our patients are already facing a number of barriers due to multiple social determinants of health including but not limited to transportation, homelessness, Severe Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI), and/or Substance Use Disorder. The goal of the Hepatitis C initiative at Wakebrook Primary Care is to ultimately reduce the prevalence as well as the incidence of Chronic Hepatitis C in our patient population but also to ultimately decrease barriers to needed treatment for patients who are ultimately underserved in our community.
By Kat Dancel
1. US Health and Human Services provided by the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy. (2017, August 3). Hepatitis C Basic Information. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/hepatitis/learn-about-viral-hepatitis/hepatitis-c-basics/index.html
2. Center for Disease Control with help from the Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. (2018, April 30). Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for all Healthcare Professionals. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm#section1
3. US Center for Preventive Services Task Force. (2013, June). USPSTF: Hepatitis C Screening. Retrieved from https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/hepatitis-c-screening