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You May Feel Fine . . .Even Though You Are Infected.

Hepatitis C is called the Silent Stalker that invades unsuspecting individuals and attacks  their liver — their internal energy source and chemical powerhouse that keeps them alive and functioning on a daily basis.

Are you or your neighbor carrying around this virus in your liver without any warning that it is doing its damage 24/7?

Are you a Baby Boomer who may have played “hard and fast” 20 – 30 years ago?  Unfortunately, no one warned you about this sneaky virus that could cause you major health problems down the line when you were in your most productive years, with a good job and family to support.

Whammo! “I have what?”  The good news is that you became aware of your infection and can line up for new treatments that can rid your body of this invader and cure your infection.

The bad news is when you ignore the fact that you “might” be infected and allow the virus to continue its destruction of your liver and eventually your life.

BABY BOOMERS ALERT –

Ask your doctor to test you for hepatitis C so you can breathe easier knowing that you are either not infected or you are and can be treated for this insidious killer disease.

Act now!!

How can we expect our children to make healthful lifestyle choices when we have failed to  provide them with the basic information from which they can make informed behavior choices?

How can they avoid liver damaging activities when they don’t know what their liver does, where it is, and especially when it doesn’t warn them that it is in trouble?

The only opportunity we have to provide this information on a regular basis is in schools.

We have failed to help our children learn how to stay healthy..

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have alerted the nation that hepatitis C cases are increasing among adolescents.

Have we taught children to take responsibility for their own health care?  How can they make healthful lifestyle choices when they lack facts from which can make informed decisions about their behaviors? We have been putting a tourniquet on the hemorrhage of drug abuse but have failed to stop the root cause of the bleeding.

We all know that young children learn at an early age not to run out in the street, to brush their teeth, and to fasten their seat belt. Have we provided them with the information they need to avoid behaviors that can expose them to the toxins and the sea of invisible germs that surround them. Do they know and understand the risk posed by contaminated instruments used in body piercing, tattooing and sharing of needles and straws used to snort cocaine?  Have we provided them with the knowledge and motivation they need to avoid these risks?

Parents, educators, and healthcare providers all feel frustrated at our inability to help children avoid the devastating consequences of participating in risky behaviors such as body piercing, tattoos, unprotected sex, binge drinking and even abuse of prescribed and over the counter drugs.

Substance abuse and related diseases such as hepatitis and other blood borne pathogens are causing immeasurable heartache, suffering and loss of lives.  This is a major problem that is plaguing our nation costing billions of dollars devoted to intervention, not prevention.  The future of our country depends on the health and well being of our children.

Unfortunately, surveys show that teachers lack the knowledge and tools to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors. Generally speaking, the public associates yellow eyes with hepatitis and cirrhosis as something you get when you drink too much.  However, they do not know what that “something” is and what hepatitis and cirrhosis mean to their health and well being.  They never learned about their own liver because it has not been previously taught in schools. . .and is still lacking in most curricula at all grade levels across the nation.

In a continuing effort to bring the problem of substance abuse under control, we have enlisted the assistance of the corporate community in a new Partners in Liver Wellness initiative.  The goal is to educate employees in the workplace . . .and their families . . . about protecting themselves against hepatitis, avoiding over use of drugs, and avoiding mixing and matching drugs and alcohol. Georgia Power, Southern Company and  The Coca-Cola Company, and others have joined this effort and are pleased to have effective materials to share with their employees and their families.

Following a report  from school nurses that they were using one of our DVD created for teenagers, to show their custodians and EMTs to alert them about blood borne pathogens, we created a video focusing on blood borne pathogens that added information on liver wellness.  The DISCOVERY Channel asked permission to use some of our 3D animation depicting the development of cirrhosis in this video for a program they were doing on liver transplants.

Many colleges are implementing programs to address the problem of binge drinking on campus.  Some of the smartest young people in the world have lost their lives participating in this binge drinking.  They were intelligent but lacked the information and motivation to take care of themselves and their liver.  If only they had learned at an early age to respect their bodies and to understand the consequences of such actions, they may still be here today.

Extensive evaluations of the liver wellness approach prove that once informed of a few basic liver functions that they can relate to in their daily lives, individuals are motivated to modify their behaviors and avoid liver damaging activities.We have a national educational system in place with the capability to reach children at an all ages, but have failed to use it effectively to our children how to take care of themselves.

Health education must begin as early as possible . . .in pre school and Head Start programs if possible, and certainly in elementary schools.  Teachers need to be trained and provided with effective tools to encourage children to learn and act on what they have learned.

At the present time, there is an enormous gap in our health education efforts.  Parents are uninformed because they, too, were not taught about their liver in school.  Children and young adults need our help.  We have some very effective tools to address this pervasive problem but must establish an organized system to provide them through our educational system. Even physicians have been impressed with our unique and non threatening way to encourage everyone to take better care of their liver.

Our policy makers need to be alerted to the major MISSED OPPORTUNITY to stop the hemorrhage of substance abuse by using our school system.  Please join our efforts to promote liver health and wellness at all levels, in schools, at home, at work and in our community organizations.  We have award winning DVDs for all ages promoting healthy lifestyles and reader friendly brochures and posters for your use.

For more information and ways you can become involved, call the Hepatitis Foundation International and visit our websites;  www.hepatitisfoundation.org and www.partnersinliverwellness.org or call us at 1-800-891-0707

A Holiday Story…

Santa Claus.  An iconic figure known worldwide as the giver of holiday gifts to children everywhere.  On the outside, he appears to be jolly and happy, sharing his infectious laugh with everyone he meets.  But what’s happening to him on the inside?

Mrs. Claus has been concerned about Santa’s health for quite some time, especially his infamous chubby belly.  She recently found out that 1 in 6 Americans has fatty liver disease and is worried that Santa could be doing damage to his liver without knowing it.  After all, the liver is a non-complaining organ and typically doesn’t show signs of distress until it’s almost to the point of no return.  Santa has been eating a lot of fatty foods and sweets, which can’t be good for his high cholesterol and diabetes.

As the holidays draw near, the stress of his job has been getting to him as well.  He comes home at the end of the day, pops a few too many acetaminophen and washes them down with his egg nog (extra brandy included) to help him relax.  It’s obvious that he doesn’t know that everything he eats, breathes and absorbs through his skin has to be processed and detoxified through his liver.  Overloading his liver like this could be damaging his liver cells and turning them into scar tissue called cirrhosis.  Just like the elves in his toy workshop, his liver cells need to be healthy and able to perform hundreds of body functions daily, so doing extra harm to them through unhealthy behaviors is putting him at serious risk.

Mrs. Claus finally convinces Santa to see his doctor and have his liver checked out to be sure he is okay.  He is screened for viral hepatitis and given a panel of liver function tests.  His results show his liver is healthy, for now.  But the doctor warns that if he continues to make unhealthy choices, the outcome may not be as positive next time.  Santa is so overjoyed that he is well, that he decides to share important information about the liver with everyone he meets.  He gets information and resources from Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI) via their toll-free information line (1-800-891-0707) and website, www.hepatitisfoundation.org.  While browsing the site, he learns about their Partners in Liver Wellness initiative and decides that he wants join in the effort to educate his elves on the importance of their own livers by providing training and materials in hopes that they, too, will decide to take better care of themselves.  He encourages the elves to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, limit their alcohol intake, eat balanced diets and get plenty of exercise.  Before long, he sees the elves become happier and more productive.  He realizes that giving others the tools to ensure they have a healthy liver is one of the best gifts of all.

During the holiday season and throughout the year, we hope that you will follow Santa’s lead by making your tax deductible contribution to Hepatitis Foundation International so that others may be given this gift of knowledge about their miraculous liver.  Your donation will help HFI further its mission and expand its programs in order to provide more resources and training to healthcare providers, patients and the public.

We wish you all the best for a healthy and happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year!

One in 12 individuals worldwide is infected with viral hepatitis and an estimated 5 million Americans are infected with hepatitis B or C. World Hepatitis Day, May 19, 2008,  is the beginning of a long-term campaign aimed at increasing awareness about the prevalence of hepatitis B and C, chronic illnesses, which combined affect more than 500 million (one in 12) people around the world.

Referred to as the Silent Epidemic, most people who have contracted viral hepatitis are unaware of their infection.  The liver – the organ that is attacked by these viruses – is a non complaining organ which expresses few if any signs of trouble.  “It is essential that individuals — and especially social drinkers – take a serious look back, even 20 years ago, to assess their own risk of exposure to these viruses, and to be tested. ” says Thelma King Thiel, Chair and CEO of the Hepatitis Foundation International  Alcohol accelerates the damage to the liver in those who have hepatitis C.  Avoiding alcohol and living a healthy lifestyle are important first steps in coping with this insidious disease.

If hepatitis viruses are allowed to continue their attack without treatment they can lead to cirrhosis and cancer and may require a costly liver transplant. It is critical that hepatitis B and C infections are diagnosed, those who are infected should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, treatment considered when appropriate and changes in lifestyle initiated.  Because current treatments are expensive, have limited success in many individuals with some distressing side effects including extreme fatigue, frequent mood swings and severe depression, patients, their families and employers are impacted by these diseases.  Prevention is essential to stop the spread of these diseases. Viral hepatitis is preventable by avoiding behaviors that expose one to these diseases including body piercing, tattooing, having unprotected sex and sharing needles and other paraphernalia in injection drug use.  Adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors and being vaccinated can save lives today.

The Hepatitis Foundation International is a non-profit organization located in Silver Spring, Maryland. The mission of the Foundation is to bring viral hepatitis and other blood borne pathogens under control by promoting healthier lifestyles. The Foundation offers training programs and a series of 14 DVDs on liver wellness, and prevention of hepatitis A, B and C and substance abuse. The newest DVD called Give Your Liver a Break received an Emmy award. For more information, please contact Thelma King Thiel by phone 1-800-891-0707, fax 301-622-4702, or e-mail info@hepatitisfoundation.org.

When my precious son, Dean, was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver from a rare and fatal liver disease when he was only two weeks old, my world fell apart.  How could this be?  I had done everything right during my pregnancy.  I hadn’t been sick.  Why my baby?  How could this happen?

That was 39 years ago. To this day, researchers are at a loss as to the cause of biliary atresia, a disease that destroyed Dean’s bile ducts in utero.  Why was my sweet, innocent baby doomed to a life of suffering from two fractured hips, two major surgeries and worst of all, unrelenting itching night and day.  My heart ached when other children teased him because his skin was yellow due to his liver problem.  I would tell Dean that God made him the color of sunshine because he was a very special little boy.

My heart ached constantly.  I cried and prayed  every day for a miracle to save his life.  After four heart wrenching but precious years, Dean died on Christmas Eve. That was 34 years ago.

What could I do to pay tribute and  honor the memory to my littlest angel? How could his short time on earth have some lasting meaning to others?

Our family and friends decided to establish the Dean Thiel Research Endowment Fund to support young scientists in their search for answers to this and other dreadful liver diseases that claim the lives of thousands of children and adults each year.

An annual grant is awarded in Dean’s memory to a young researcher to support his or her studies to unlock the mysteries of the liver and liver diseases.   Dean’s legacy lives on by helping others.

As Dean’s Mom, I fill each day with my personal tribute to Dean promoting the prevention of liver diseases encouraged by a faint little voice in my head and heart that says, “Go get ’em Mom”.

For information on setting up a Research Endowment Fund or to make a bequest in honor of a loved one, please contact Thelma King Thiel  at 1-800-891-0707

Primary Prevention Education

Primary prevention education is essential to the success of health system reform. Economic reality alone dictates that we must prevent that which is preventable. Mental health and substance abuse services are critical to any health system reform because they are the gateway to risky behaviors causing chronic disease and numerous other preventable health issues.

Those impacted by substance abuse and mental health issues are at risk for liver disease, one such preventable chronic disease.   Information about liver health and the impact drugs and alcohol can have on this vital organ has been missing in education programs across the nation for decades.  As recent as the mid 1970 little time and resources were allocated to support research and education in medical schools. The non complaining organ did not have a “voice” to alert Congress of the need to study this silent organ. The domino effect has been a lack of information and teaching tools in schools to engage students in understanding the importance of the liver and how drugs and alcohol can severely compromise its ability to perform hundreds of life supporting body functions. Extensive evaluations identify a serious lack of understanding of the important role the liver plays in processing drugs and alcohol and how it can be severely damaged without warning by these substances and hepatitis viruses. Liver health and wellness is missing in the public’s conscientiousness.

The Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI) serves high risk substance abuse and HIV populations as well as minority populations disproportionately affected by hepatitis. HFI has collaborated with SAMHSA for several years providing its liver wellness and prevention of hepatitis and HIV training program called Foundation for Decision Making (FDM)  to over 3500 grantees.  Both CSAT and CSAP and Mental Health administrators have provided an opportunity for HFI to describe the FDM program to their new grantees. However, HFI must subsequently contact each grantee to create an MOU to provide the training for their constituents.  Currently, there is no direct mechanism to support the FDM program through the SAMSHA network.

The FDM program is a 3 to- 6 hour training program depending on the individuals needs of the organization.  It is provided by Thelma King Thiel, chair and CEO of HFI and highly qualified staff.  Evaluations of each training program identify a general lack of knowledge of the importance of the liver and how unhealthy behaviors can lead to exposure to hepatitis, HIV and serious damage caused by drugs and alcohol. The FDM program provides basic information using analogies that various populations can relate to in their daily lives about the important role the liver plays in their ability to maintain their health and well being. Story telling techniques improve retention of information provided for various audiences.  Easily replicated messages are provided verbally and repeated in DVDs for various ages and ethnicities to enhance the ability of the counselor/teacher to share information learned with their constituents. The more extensive program includes role playing and rehearsals of presentations by the attendees.

Extensive post training evaluations and follow up over extended periods of time prove the effectiveness of the Foundation for Decision Making training in empowering individuals to make informed and healthier lifestyle choices. Obviously, individuals can not change what they do not know. Information provided is critically important in addressing the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol among young children as well as adults and especially pregnant women and prevention of hepatitis and HIV.

The Hepatitis Foundation International’s Foundation for Decision Making Training program is the only one of its kind available in the country that has demonstrated effectiveness in promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors, improving immunization rates and encouraging drug abusers to modify their risk behaviors. A NIDA supported study called STRIVE reported that injection drug users demonstrated a two fold risk reduction when provided risk reduction techniques and information about the impact their behaviors could have on the liver, their internal power plant.

In addition, clients in treatment programs have demonstrated improved compliance with treatment regimens once they understand why and how the medication aids in their recovery.  Prevention is far less costly than rebuilding a life destroyed by unknowingly participating in liver damaging activities.

A mechanism to support such liver wellness primary prevention programs directly to grantees is missing in SAMHSA’s current guidelines. Support for a comprehensive training program including trainers and  educational materials is essential to fill the identified gap in currently programs.

A system to support this essential training is needed to address this informational gap. A general policy supporting primary prevention is sorely needed at SAMHSA, CDC, HRSA, OMH, and especially schools.

Primary prevention and liver wellness education are far less costly than treating diseases and conditions that are preventable. if only one person changed risk behaviors and did not contract a hepatitis virus thousands of dollars could  be saved in health care costs per year.

Red Means STOP!

Much about viral hepatitis prevention is common sense, Thiel notes. “Blood is red—the color of danger. So don’t touch other people’s blood, whether it’s on a razor, a nail file or anything else. Don’t touch blisters, rashes or sores on anyone else. When you have a blister or sore, cover it.”

“If you have sexual contact with more than one steady partner,  use barrier protection. If someone living in your household has hepatitis B, make certain every member of the household gets vaccinated against hepatitis B.
“It’s imperative that people assess their own high-risk behaviors, even activities of 20 or 30 years ago,” Thiel says. “Ask your doctor to test you for hepatitis B and C.

If you are infected, learn all you can about hepatitis and discuss treatment options with your doctor. Don’t drink any alcohol as it accelerates the disease process.  Exercise, eat a healthy diet and participate in your own health decisions with your physician. Protect your family members from touching anything with your blood on it. Hepatitis is not a death sentence if you actively participate in your own healthcare.”

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