Fight against viral hepatitis generates lessons for dealing with new health emergencies

The study was carried out between September 2020 and February 2022. It involved documentary research and 34 interviews.
Public Policy
22 June 2022
Fight against viral hepatitis generates lessons for dealing with new health emergencies

Brazil was a pioneer in the fight against viral hepatitis through initiatives such as the creation of the National Viral Hepatitis Program in 2002, 10 years before the World Health Organization recognized it as a global public health problem. This is pointed out in a report published on Friday, June 17, written by researchers at Fundação Getulio Vargas.

The study was carried out between September 2020 and February 2022. It involved documentary research and 34 interviews with key Health Ministry officials, representatives of civil society, academics and pharmaceutical company executives.

Andreza Davidian, a researcher at Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP) and lead author of the report, explains that the Brazilian government’s hepatitis program was based on the successful experience of its HIV/AIDS program. As part of the National Viral Hepatitis Program, the Health Ministry negotiated with pharmaceutical companies to expand access to medicines and reduce the cost of treatment. At the same time, the public health system provided viral hepatitis treatment at its primary care centers.

One of the major milestones in Brazil was the integration of strategies for tackling viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases / AIDS in the same Health Ministry department as of 2010, and more recently, other chronic and communicable conditions, such as tuberculosis and leprosy. Although recent changes are considered a setback by some stakeholders, especially civil society representatives and managers, this is a global process in line with the recommendation for primary care to be the main strategy for promoting everyone’s health, the study points out. In this sense, Brazil was also a pioneer, since it was only in 2015 that global strategies to fight these conditions were unified.

According to the author, the study contributes to evaluating the national response to hepatitis and to new public health crises, such as several cases of acute childhood hepatitis of unknown origin recorded by the Health Ministry in May 2022. “Our study suggests that there is institutionalized action in the country to fight viral hepatitis. Therefore, there is state capacity to monitor and promptly respond to this health emergency. Furthermore, the study provides information on the management of complex programs, which involve different actors and levels of management. Thus, the study can support stakeholders in public health policy processes and ways to encourage a more equitable supply of health services,” says Davidian.

The report also shows that despite institutional crises experienced in the last decade, Brazil can set an example in the fight against viral hepatitis through its cross-cutting actions to diagnose and monitor patients. “The Brazilian experience can provide lessons for countries committed to eliminating hepatitis C as a public health problem, in terms of how the program was structured and strengthened over time, and the successful implementation of the strategy of making treatment accessible to all,” Davidian adds.

You can find the complete study here.

This article was first published on the “Impacto” blog on June 20, 2022.

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