East Hawaii News

DOH, Filmmakers Join Together for World Hepatitis Day

July 28, 2015, 4:44 PM HST
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In recognition of World Hepatitis Day, the Hawai’i State Department of Health and Hep Free Hawai’i have partnered with local filmmakers to create short films highlighting the inspirational stories of local people living with or affected by hepatitis.

World Hepatitis Day is a designation by the World Health Organization. The day is meant to bring attention to the epidemics of hepatitis B and C worldwide.

“Most people with hepatitis B or C don’t know that they have it,” stated Thaddeus Pham, DOH Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator.  “If undetected, hepatitis B and C can lead to liver disease, liver cancer, or even death. With hepatitis B and C screening covered by most insurance and more effective hepatitis treatments available, people have better options to take care of themselves before they become ill.”

The DOH estimates that 63,000 people in Hawai’i currently live with either chronic hepatitis B or C. Hawai’i also has the highest rate of live cancer in the country, with the majority of cases in Hawai’i caused by viral hepatitis. According to the DOH, Hepatitis B and C impact a variety of ethnicities and ages in Hawai’i, including Asians, Pacific Islanders, and baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965.

“We’re partnering with local filmmakers because we recognize the increasing power of media and storytelling in our current healthcare landscape,” Pham said. “We hope that these stories will inspire at-risk persons to take action towards addressing hepatitis in their own communities. It is important to use every opportunity to increase awareness and screening for our ohana.”

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Local filmmakers Alexandra Bocchieri and Christopher Ahn partnered up with the DOH and Hep Free Hawai’i to create a story bank of short films that provide representations of different at-risk Hawai’i communities. The hope is that the films will encourage residents to learn about the risks of viral hepatitis and to ask for screenings from their healthcare providers if they feel they are at an elevated risk.

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“By raising awareness about the impact of hepatitis in Hawaii, we hope to improve patient and community health outcomes, especially since most persons at risk for hepatitis are not regularly screened,” Pham said.  “Getting these simple tests now can mean that patients can avoid liver disease or even liver cancer later.”

Eddie Ochoa’s journey in dealing with hepatitis is shared in the first film in the “Share Our Stories” series, titled “The Bread Man.

To learn more about getting tested for hepatitis, visit the Hep Free Hawai’i website.

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