Bristol-Myers Squibb: Foundation Establishes Hepatitis Centers of Excellence To Increase Awareness and Patient Support in China and India
Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Establishes Hepatitis Centers of Excellence To Increase Awareness and Patient Support in China and India

Since 2002, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Delivering Hope program has supported more than 40 projects in China and India that have focused on the millions affected by hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the two countries.

To extend the impact of those projects in the future, earlier this year the Foundation established three new Centers of Excellence to work with its grantees and other partners to more broadly disseminate the accumulated knowledge, experience and learnings for this decade-long effort.

“For more than 10 years in China and five years in India, our Foundation has focused on building health care worker capacity, and on developing and supporting successful models for hepatitis prevention and control in community settings and among vulnerable populations,” says John Damonti, Foundation president and vice president for corporate philanthropy at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Innovative and Effective Approach

“Over that time, we have learned a great deal about innovative and effective approaches that can work. As we considered the next decade and beyond, we began to zero in on a number of projects and organizations that had done exemplary work in addressing these big issues. And because of the vastness of these countries, we decided to consider how best to more broadly share these successful, innovative and evidence-based practices. After all, there is much still to be done.”

The result is the announcement to develop three specific Centers of Excellence to expand upon the possibilities of what has already been achieved – one in China, based at the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control (CFHPC), and two in India, one at the Liver Foundation of West Bengal, and a second at the HOPE Initiative in Uttar Pradesh.

With a grant commitment of nearly $2.5 million to the three centers over three years, the Foundation expects to use evidence-based practices from past Foundation grantees to help scale up and replicate additional community-based interventions and inform public policy in both liver and metabolic diseases.

Reaching More People

In China, more than 100 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, as the treatment of liver failure and chronic liver disease creates a significant burden on families and society. The grant to the CFHPC will establish a Center that will optimize past efforts (18 projects since 2002) to reach more people in the most cost effective ways. The CFHPC will act as the lead organization to cooperate with other partners, including the Wu Jieping Medical Foundation, Shanghai Charity Foundation and Inno Community Organization and other institutions across China.

After an initial start up phase, the partners will develop tool kits and establish a resource center that will develop hepatitis knowledge modules that can be used with different groups and geographies, and that will encompass rural medical training, especially focused on women of reproductive age, patient empowerment and support, and high risk group and work place interventions, particularly among migrant workers.

Two Centers in India

The two centers in India will focus on liver disease as well as metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, again building on past successful interventions and models. After all, diabetes, hypertension and liver disease are among the noncommunicable diseases and chronic infections emerging as major public health priorities in countries like India because of changes in lifestyles and related factors.

In addition, despite recent economic opportunities, there are still significant differences, characterized by poverty, illiteracy and poor health between rural and urban areas. The role of rural health care providers is crucial in addressing these disparities. Even with their limited knowledge and virtually no formal medical training, they are responsible for at least 70 percent of outdoor health-related visits in rural India.

The Center of Excellence at the Liver Foundation, West Bengal, therefore will continue to build additional capacity among rural health care practitioners to provide primary and preventive care for liver and metabolic health.

Success in India

For the past five years, the Liver Foundation has been working in that effort with support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. Successes have included:

  • India’s first ever hepatitis C and liver disease burden database
  • The establishment of hepatitis patient advocacy and support groups
  • Training 1,000 rural health care providers, and using these providers to deliver an integrated metabolic health awareness and action program that includes screening, awareness and lifestyle modification campaigns.

Looking ahead, the new center expects to develop a hepatology curriculum to accommodate various health care provider knowledge levels as well as tablet-based teaching modules for training rural health care providers. The center also will carry out cutting edge research about different aspects of rural health care provision to help strengthen awareness in hepatitis and metabolic health, and provide input to ongoing government health planning in areas of rural health care delivery.

A second center, based at the HOPE Initiative, will develop and implement school to community approaches in health promotion to control hepatitis B and type 2 diabetes in India. The Initiative will serve as a central hub, acting as a think tank and knowledge center, to develop a knowledge base and additional models for intervention, while also serving as a technical resource center for other organizations.

Reaching out to Children

While the need is still great, the opportunities to achieve a great deal through HOPE’s expertise with children are significant. With children constituting up to 40 percent of the population in developing countries like India, the HOPE Initiative has found them more receptive to new ideas, to learn faster, to adopt new practices better than adults, and capable of acting as ambassadors for these ideas for their neighbors and families.

With support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Delivering Hope program, the HOPE Initiative has successfully used school to community approaches to raise awareness and control hepatitis B and other major health issues in 25 districts and some 400 schools in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, but with one of the worst socioeconomic and health indicators in the country. In that setting, HOPE has reached about 5 million school students and their families, leading to an increase in hepatitis B vaccination rates and testing in the region.

The Initiative and the Foundation today are partnering with the government to train teachers from 6,600 government schools to apply these methods of health promotion of hepatitis and other health-related issues, through train the trainer programs. Similar efforts are expected as the rapidly increasing incidence of diabetes has become a major health concern in India. Lifestyle changes beginning at a young age may be key to opening up opportunities for such prevention intervention.

“We expect these three centers to serve as models for collaborative research, new operational interventions and enhanced advocacy efforts that will inform policy and thus have a significant impact on the awareness and control of hepatitis and diabetes,” Damonti explains. “Over time, they can play a greater role in other emerging health issues and provide guidance and leadership in areas like health promotion, policy development and advocacy for the vulnerable populations who can benefit the most.”


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