Fiona Ma for State Assembly
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S.F.'s hepatitis B campaign now a model

San Francisco’s Hep B Free campaign, aimed at eradicating one of the Asian-American community’s biggest killers, is being copied nationwide.

Ted Fang, director of the AsianWeek Foundation and a driver behind San Francisco’s campaign, said as many as a dozen communities, including Philadelphia, “are trying replicate the model here in San Francisco.”

Speaking at an event Wednesday that featured Baruch Blumberg, the Nobel Prize-winning discoverer of the hepatitis B virus and vaccine, Fang said Hep B Free is helping to erase the stigma of a disease that left untreated can lead to deadly liver cancer.

San Francisco, not coincidentally, has the highest liver cancer rate in the United States, according to the group.

Hep B Free brought together city government, private health care providers and businesses. Key to the campaign has been ads on buses and at Muni shelters that show different groups of 10 Asian-Americans and a tagline, “Which one deserves to die?”

That refers to the fact that one in 10 in the Asian-American community is chronically infected with the disease.

(In the attached video, Fang talks about how Hep B Free has tapped the unique characteristics of the Asian-American community — including 90 percent coverage by health insurance, according to Fang — to get San Francisco hospitals involved.)

Hep B Free now is asking every primary care doctor in San Francisco to sign a pledge to test at-risk patients for hep B. Sixty percent have signed up, Fang said, including all physicians at 54-bed Chinese Hospital, North East Medical Services in Chinatown and Kaiser Permanente.

“This is not just an Asian problem,” said Samuel So. director of the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University. “This is a community problem. This is an American problem.”