Hepatitis Education & Prevention Program (HEPP)

Immunizations & Hepatitis Education

Hepatitis B screening serves two purposes. It is held to educate individuals about hepatitis B and screen them for the disease. Participants attend a 30 minute education presentation about hepatitis B, transmission modes, dangers, and myths. Subsequently individuals will have their blood drawn and screened for evidence of current infection and immunity for the hepatitis B virus. Participants will be notified of their status within 3 weeks of the screening. Those who are not immune will be offered an opportunity to be immunized with a series of 3 doses of the hepatitis B vaccine.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) immunization is a supplemental component to the hepatitis B screening. Individuals whose results indicate a lack of immunity to hepatitis B are highly encouraged to participate in AHC’s HBV immunization program. Because of the funding and limited supplies, HBV immunizations are limited to only participants who were screened through AHC’s HBV screening program.

Suburban HEPP Expansion

The Hepatitis B Education and Prevention Program (HEPP), was expanded to the suburbs of Chicago with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control to reach the AAPI communities in Suburban Cook County as well as the DuPage and Kane counties. The agency’s HEPP program is partly funded with support through a cooperative grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The purpose of HEPP is to:
• Provide targeted outreach and health education to Asian Americans in Chicago and the surrounding metropolitan area, including Cook, DuPage, and Kane counties, regarding viral hepatitis.
• Increase hepatitis screening rates for high-risk Asian populations.
• Provide appropriate linkages to care for either the hepatitis vaccine or medical follow-up for chronic hepatitis infections.

The success of HEPP lies in a multitiered strategy of community-based partnerships, the community health worker (CHW) model, also known as the lay health advisor model, academic institutional support, and public health system integration. The community-based partnerships have built on the strengths of community-based organizations (CBOs) having the knowledge, insight, and trust of the communities they serve. This has been critical to identifying their community health workers. Secondly, screenings and vaccinations are held at community locations that are both familiar and easily accessible to community members.

The CHW model has several strengths:
• The ability to reach individuals that are traditionally difficult to access
• The information can be conveyed in the language, cultural background, and circumstances of the community member
• It uses and takes advantage of characteristics of ethnic communities and enclaves that are already present, such as a stronger neighborhood attachment and patterns of natural helping
• CHWs informally provide social support, which has been shown to be associated with positive outcomes for health and increases in healthy behaviors.

AHC wants to give communities the capacity they need to increase knowledge, awareness, and prevention methods for hepatitis B. AHC aims to build the capacity of the partner CBOs and develop and implement a model that can be managed, sustained, and replicated. Paramount to the program’s success is the integration of linkage to care models to ensure adequate follow up and treatment for those infected and at risk. Through partnership with safety net hospitals, bilingual CHWs, and area undergraduate and medical students, AHC is building the infrastructure for long-term linkages to care to reduce morbidity and mortality from this preventable disease. Through this model program, AHC is also creating a pipeline of Asian healthcare providers who will continue to work toward the eradication of this devastating yet preventable disease.

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