October 10, 2012
The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand, in partnership with the New Zealand Ministry of Health and the Bay of Plenty District of Health Board, is initiating a pilot project targeting chronic hepatitis C in the Bay of Plenty. The goal of the project is to improve health outcomes and access to care for people with hepatitis C.
In New Zealand, there are approximately 50,000 people with chronic hepatitis C. Seventy-five percent of these people do not know they are infected, and chronic hepatitis C is the main cause of liver transplants in New Zealand.
According to the Hepatitis C Project Manager, Kelly Barclay, the project "will involve a hepatitis nurse delivering specialist care in the community. The goal will be to provide those with hepatitis C with better access to testing, care and support where they live."
The Hepatitis Foundation will work with general practitioners, specialists, and other health providers to enroll people with hepatitis C in a Community Assessment and Support Programme. Under this program, a community nurse will provide enrolled patients with an initial FibroScan assessment (a non-invasive new ultrasound technique that assesses the level of liver disease and eliminates the need for liver biopsies in most cases), blood tests, ongoing support and education, and will liaise with health providers to centrally manage patients' needs.
The project will begin in early 2013 with a public campaign to identify people at risk for hepatitis C and encourage them to get tested.