hepinion: 2019, a year to remember

16 Dec 2019 Lucy Ferrier

by Cary James, WHA CEO

We have come to the end of another year and I believe it’s important that we take time to pause and briefly reflect on the achievements of the past year.

We have had many highlights at WHA. One of the key moments of 2019 was the inclusion of viral hepatitis within the United Nations Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). To achieve this took a truly united effort by WHA and its members, stakeholders and other partners – without all partners working together we would not have been able to achieve this historic commitment to hepatitis elimination at a global political level.

The inclusion of hepatitis within the UHC declaration is an example of successful advocacy, something we are invested in at WHA. This year we launched our Find the Missing Millions Advocacy Resource, an online tool that brings together recommendations from our 2018 White Paper and expands on how to overcome the barriers to diagnosis. It includes practical advice, with case studies on how WHA members from across the world are finding the missing millions. Together with this resource we launched our Find the Missing Millions in-country advocacy programme where we are working with five WHA members to develop and initiate advocacy programmes to help overcome one or more of the barriers to diagnosis in the participants’ countries. We are delighted by the work being developed by the five members and we will continue to report on their progress over the coming months.

NOhep has also had an exciting 2019. The movement mobilised twice this year, firstly to campaign to Google to make an awareness-raising Google Doodle for World Hepatitis Day, and then to urge the Global Fund to actively encourage the integration of hepatitis elimination into their existing programmes. NOhep has grown to be a movement of over 5,000 people from across the world, and being able to mobilise them and to bring their voices to the global stage will help make change happen. We have also seen the growth of the NOhep Medical Visionaries programme, which has developed into a network of more than 500 medical professionals from 60 countries. This year we brought the Medical Visionaries together at the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL)’s International Liver Congress and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)’s The Liver Meeting so that they could share their work to achieve elimination.

 NOhep has grown to be a movement of over 5,000 people from across the world, and being able to mobilise them and to bring their voices to the global stage will help make change happen. 

World Hepatitis Day was another highlight – it is always motivating to see the global community unite to raise awareness. The film and other resources WHA produced were used worldwide to help raise awareness, with the resources being translated and used by members across the globe. WHA members are key to helping spread the message and raise awareness, and your events, meetings and advocacy efforts on the day – and throughout the year – are an inspiration.

On a global level, many of the conversations in global health have turned their attention to UHC, integration and decentralisation. It is vital that viral hepatitis is included in these conversations; eliminating the viruses can help achieve global health priorities, making health systems stronger and more efficient and, crucially, saving more lives. We now have just ten years left to reach elimination and while some countries are on track to make that happen, the majority are not. There is hard work to be done, at a crucial time. We have exciting plans for keeping hepatitis high on the global health agenda in 2020 – it will be another busy but exciting year and we look forward to working with our members, stakeholders and other partners to move ever closer to the elimination of viral hepatitis. For now, we can look back at 2019 with a sense of achievement.

We have exciting plans for keeping hepatitis high on the global health agenda in 2020 – it will be another busy but exciting year and we look forward to working with our members, stakeholders and other partners to move ever closer to the elimination of viral hepatitis.