Tribal partnerships for liver health: Part 5 in a series on ANTHC support and prevention against liver disease and hepatitisAugust 14, 2015
The ANTHC Liver Disease and Hepatitis Program has provided important services to support our Tribal health partners for the past 30 years. These services, such as clinical consultation and education, help improve the health of our people. Liver-related deaths due to cirrhosis and liver cancer are the sixth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native people across the country. Living with liver disease contributes to a decreased quality of life because it impacts a person’s ability to participate in everyday activities such as work and subsistence.
To combat these realities, the Liver Disease and Hepatitis Program focuses on screening for treatable liver disease, vaccination for viral hepatitis and chronic disease management programs for patients in their home communities. Through the history of the program, successful vaccination programs conducted with our Tribal partners have resulted in almost complete elimination of acute hepatitis A, a major cause of debilitating illness, and chronic hepatitis B. Management programs have prevented countless numbers of our people from developing liver failure and dying from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Providing successful care for more than 4,000 Alaska Native people statewide has benefited from positive engagement and coordination with our Tribal health partners. These education and clinical partnerships have demonstrated that liver disease and hepatitis can shift from a leading cause of death to a more manageable condition for our Alaska Native people. The clinical co-management between the liver specialists at ANTHC and Tribal health partner organizations has made this approach a successful model that now provides guidance and consulting for other Tribal health systems across the U.S.
Our Tribal partners are able to access additional clinical consultation through telephone and telemedicine consultations, field clinics and most recently, videoconference clinics. In addition, the LiverConnect education series has played a large role in supplementing provider education for the care of patients with liver disease. Recently, the program began coordinating with Tribal behavioral health partners to help customize and provide services for liver disease and hepatitis patients suffering from substance abuse or mental illness. By providing a well-rounded clinical approach supplemented with educational resources, further liver damage often caused by these conditions can be prevented.
Working toward our vision that Alaska Native people are the healthiest people in the world requires many people and organizations working together. As the Liver Disease and Hepatitis Program moves forward in pursuit of our vision, we look forward to developing our Tribal partnerships to prevent future threats to the health of our people and continue providing high quality services for those who either have or are at risk of developing viral hepatitis and other liver diseases.
For more information about the prevention and education services of the Liver Disease & Hepatitis Program, please visit www.anthc.org/hep.