A hunt will soon be on to find 50,000 Australians with hepatitis C who are missing out on getting cured.
Finding 50,000 campaign will target geographically dispersed and socially diverse people who so far, have not been reached by the “business-as-usual” national hepatitis C response.
Led by Hepatitis Australia and funded by the Federal government as part of a larger project, Finding 50,000 will work with local services and communities to engage with 50,000 people with hepatitis C by the end of 2022.
This geo-targeted campaign will be implemented in 16 areas nationally. State and Territory Health Departments have been asked to identify Primary Health Network (PHN) areas as targets for on-the-ground implementation. These are areas:
- where testing and treatment uptake are low,
- which are unlikely to reach the national 2022 targets without additional effort, and
- which are not already being targeted in other campaigns or projects.
By focusing on specific locations, activities can be integrated and by selecting locations where there is capacity to scale up services, the impact of the campaign can be maximised to increase hepatitis C testing and treatment.
The 16 geographic areas include four in New South Wales, three each in Queensland and Victoria, two in Western Australia and one each in the ACT, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.
SA – Granular Approach
South Australia has just two PHNs, both of which have relatively high hepatitis C treatment uptake. SA Health has therefore adopted a more granular approach by identifying Australian Bureau of Statistics sub areas (SA3) within the Adelaide PHN as target locations.
Four northern metropolitan SA3 areas – Port Adelaide – West, Port Adelaide – East, Playford and Salisbury – were recommended.
HCV notifications were seven times more likely to be from people residing in the least economically-resourced 10% of postcodes
In making the recommendations, SA Health Manager, STI & BBV Section, Tom Rees, said these four areas were over-represented in the number of people with untreated hepatitis C, pointing to the latest Viral Hepatitis Mapping Report, which said that “in 2020 these four SA3s contained 21% of the overall South Australian population, and 34% of all South Australians living with hepatitis C who were yet to access treatment”.
He further pointed out that postcodes with lower socio-economic indices have higher hepatitis C notifications, quoting a study into the socio-economic burden of hepatitis C in South Australia which stated that “HCV notifications were seven times more likely to be from people residing in the least economically-resourced 10% of postcodes, and 20 times more likely compared to people living in the wealthiest deciles”.
Port Adelaide – East, Port Adelaide – West, Playford and Salisbury are also served by existing services which can be scaled up to meet increased demand for hepatitis C testing and treatment.
The Larger Project
The Finding 50,000 campaign is a component of the larger National Hepatitis C “Finding 50,000” Campaign – also known as the 50,000 Project.
The 50,000 Project is a sector-led proposal developed following a commitment made by Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, in November 2020, to find 50,000 people living with hepatitis C by the end of 2022 as part of the response to achieve Australia’s hepatitis C testing and treatment targets.
The Project identified five key “inter-related and mutually reinforcing” pillars of activities to be focused in areas where testing and treatment uptake have been low, and concerted effort is needed. The activities are:
- National hepatitis C public education campaigns,
- National program to increase hepatitis C point of care testing,
- Expanded hepatitis activity in primary care including case finding,
- National Hepatitis C Infoline enhancement,
- Hepatitis C systems working group and project coordination and evaluation
It is projected that, run concurrently, these activities will amplify the reach and retention of messages, and increase community engagement in local existing services.
Running under the umbrella of the broader campaign, Finding 50,000 will organise events and work with communities to motivate people to act on hepatitis C. It aims to achieve this by working with community influencers, raising awareness within communities about hepatitis and liver cancer, and providing people with support and pathways to seeing friendly nurses and GPs to get tested and treated.
These activities can be further reinforced with messages in the media and supported by other national 50,000 Project activities including enhancement of the Hepatitis Infoline, point of care testing, campaigns with people who inject drugs, and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as well as National and State World Hepatitis Day campaigns.
The National Hepatitis C “Finding 50,000” Campaign is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. Project partners include Australian Department of Health & BBVSTI Standing Committee, Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), Hepatitis Australia, The Burnet Institute in partnership with NACCHO and AIVL, The Kirby Institute in partnership with Flinders University and National Reference Laboratory.