Statement of Dr Kidong Park on the occasion of the Scientific Conference on Reality and Perspective of Viral hepatitis Control 14 November 2017, Ho Chi Minh City

Dr Kidong Park
14 November 2017, Vinh Phuc province

It is my great honor to be here today with you and discuss how to control viral hepatitis in Viet Nam.

WHO released the Global Hepatitis Report in April this year. The report says that 325 million people are living with chronic hepatitis infections worldwide and 1.34 million people died of viral hepatitis in 2015. 1.34 million death toll is the number comparable to deaths caused by tuberculosis and higher than those caused by HIV. Moreover, the number of deaths due to viral hepatitis is increasing over time, while mortality caused by tuberculosis and HIV is declining.

Viral hepatitis is also a huge public health problem in Viet Nam. Viet Nam is one of the 11 countries in the world that carry 50% of the global burden of chronic hepatitis B and C. One out of 11 people are living with chronic hepatitis B and C. This means that about 7.8 million people living with chronic hepatitis B infection and nearly 1 mission people living with chronic hepatitis C infection.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Early this month, high level representatives of governments gathered at the World Hepatitis Summit 2017 in Brazil. By launching the São Paulo Declaration on Viral Hepatitis, the Summit committed to taking a broad and coordinated approach to support implementation of the core interventions outlined in WHO’s Global Hepatitis Strategy.

WHO's Global Hepatitis Strategy aims to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. It also defines a set of priority actions for countries to undertake. These are:

  • developing a strong strategic information system to understand viral hepatitis epidemics and focus the response;
  • defining essential, high-impact interventions on the continuum of hepatitis services that should be included in health benefit packages;
  • strengthening health and community systems to deliver high-quality services to achieve equitable coverage and maximum impact;
  • proposing strategies to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and minimize the risk of financial hardship for those requiring the services; and
  • promoting and embracing innovation to drive rapid progress.

Elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 would be an ambitious goal. But, I believe it should be feasible.

We have already seen the elimination of viral hepatitis B in childhood through universal birth dose immunization. Recent innovation in hepatitis treatment made it possible to slow the progression of chronic viral hepatitis B infection and event to cure viral hepatitis C infection. Globally a record 3 million people were able to obtain treatment for hepatitis C over the past two years, and 2.8 million more people embarked on lifelong treatment for hepatitis B in 2016.

However, large majority of people living with hepatitis B and C in Viet Nam still do not know their status due to limited access to testing and diagnosis service. Furthermore, the treatment with the new medicine is still very expensive for many patients.

In order to address these issues, WHO has been working with the Ministry of Health to explore solutions. These include:

  • development of national action plan for viral hepatitis;
  • development and updating national guidelines for viral hepatitis diagnosis and treatment;
  • improve access to medicines; and
  • implementation of viral hepatitis surveillance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Successful implementation of the national action plan for viral hepatitis and national guidelines for viral hepatitis diagnosis and treatment rely on you.

I understand that the Tropical Disease Hospital plays a very important role in providing care and treatment for thousands of patients in Ho Chi Minh City and Southern provinces.

I believe elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030 in Viet Nam is an ambitious goal but feasible for Viet Nam. I trust that efforts made by your hospital are a very significant contribution to achieve the elimination goal.

Once again, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to join this important event and thank you for your attention.

Thank you. Xin cam on.

Dr Kidong Park