NASTAD at the 2023 North American Viral Hepatitis Elimination Summit
In March, NASTAD Hepatitis team members, Jasmine West and Zakiya Grubbs, attended the 2023 North American Viral Hepatitis Elimination Summit in Los Angeles, California. The Summit was a collaborative effort of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver (CASL), and the Asociación Mexicana de Hepatología (AMH) to foster collaboration, increase knowledge translation, and exchange ideas. The goal of the summit was to enhance viral hepatitis elimination and reduce liver complications, including liver cancer, among North Americans.
The 2023 North American Viral Hepatitis Elimination Summit showcased presentations and workshops led by public health and medical experts who discussed strategies on addressing viral hepatitis prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Dr. Francis Collins, who is currently at the National Institute of Health and former Special Advisor to the President for Special Projects, presented the White House’s viral hepatitis elimination strategy components and considerations. In attendance, there were also several health department staff members present from all over the country, and select individuals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Johns Hopkins University, and other health organizations and institutions.
Public health leaders from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. presented their findings and approaches to viral hepatitis elimination. Many of the presentations from Canada highlighted the ways in which Indigenous populations are substantially involved in viral hepatitis elimination efforts. A presentation that showcased the work of the Pewaseskwan (the Indigenous Wellness Research Group), an organization that conducts research on the health and wellness of Indigenous populations, underscored the many barriers to hepatitis care and treatment for Indigenous communities. Additionally, U.S. public health leaders presented data that supported and reinforced the need for the U.S. National Hepatitis C Elimination Plan. The data showed the cost-saving and health benefits that will result in implementing this plan.
There were many key takeaways from the summit that can be applied to the work that is done at NASTAD. For instance, the presentation about the community-led COVID-19 vaccine distribution program is a success story that can be shared with NASTAD members and health department staff. The strategies presented in this program consisted of ways to include the entire community in program planning and providing the opportunity for community members to determine priorities and implementation. Another key takeaway from the summit was ensuring that hepatitis B prevention, care, and treatment is continuously integrated into viral hepatitis program planning.
Overall, the summit was a great experience and provided the opportunity for attendees to learn more about the viral hepatitis programs that are being planned and implemented in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. NASTAD Hepatitis team members, Jasmine West and Zakiya Grubbs, noted that they hope future meetings include more representation of people with lived experiences leading the discussion and presenting. They also hope to see more discussions that highlight priority populations and that these discussions are integrated throughout the entire summit. Additionally, it would have been very interesting to see a presentation that focused on ways to harmonize viral hepatitis elimination plans across North America.
The 2023 North American Viral Hepatitis Elimination Summit was very informative, impactful, and inspiring. NASTAD appreciates these opportunities to collaborate with and learn from partners in order to achieve its vision of a world committed to ending the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and intersecting epidemics.