Hepatitis C screening took center stage Sept. 8 at the first of two UC San Diego Health HERE Initiative health fairs. HERE, which stands for Health + Education + Research = Empowerment, is a new outreach program designed to benefit communities in South Bay and southeastern San Diego by facilitating access to:
- Essential health care services
- Education and workforce development
- Community and research partnerships
At one of the booths, the medical team gave out printed information on hepatitis, talked to visitors about the importance of screening and tested 40 people for Hepatitis C. The simple finger-prick test shows results in 20 minutes.
Robert Gish, MD, who is chief of Clinical Hepatology and an expert in liver disease, talked with visitors about the importance of being tested because people with hepatitis C often do not realize they carry the infection. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended earlier this year everyone 50 and older get tested for Hepatitis C, Gish has been active in getting the word out to Baby Boomers.
Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver, and it is curable in some. If left untreated, it can permanently damage the liver and cause cirrhosis, liver cancer and/or liver failure. Many people do not know that they have hepatitis C until they already have liver damage. Tests for hepatitis C are simple and treatments are available. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Gish also promotes education and testing for Hepatitis B, another virus that infects the liver. Most people’s immune systems are able to get rid of the virus on their own, but some develop a chronic infection. Many people with chronic hepatitis B do not know it and they can spread it to others. Treatment can control the disease in most people and decrease the risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis. Vaccination is a cornerstone of preventing the spread of this disease.
Many other health issues were addressed at the health fair, and community leaders and elected officials were also on hand to support the initiative. San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts proclaimed the day “UC San Diego Health Day.” Several city officials helped recognize UC San Diego Health as a major partner in bringing health services to people in the South Bay region. Shawn Loescher, director at the Office of College, Career and Technical Education at the San Diego Unified School District, and California State Assemblyman Marty Block also attended.
HERE Initiative free health fair will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 22 at Memorial Bowl and Parkway Community Center, 373 Park Way in Chula Vista. It will include:
- Preventive health screenings performed by our doctors and nurses
- Informative talks on pressing health care issues affecting our community
- Booths featuring UC San Diego Health’s specialty services
- Booths hosted by local community partner organizations including the American Heart
- Association, Chula Vista Community Collaborative, Urban League and many more
- Fun activities for kids and giveaways!