HEP Free Hawaii Launches Local Campaign to increase Hepatitis Awareness for Micronesians

Posted on

May 20, 2015

Thaddeus Pham
(808) 551-1917
HONOLULU, May 20, 2015 – In commemoration of Hepatitis Awareness Month and Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Hep Free Hawai‘i (HFH) recently re-launched the Micronesian Education Liver Wellness Program (MELWP) to raise awareness about hepatitis B among Micronesian communities living in Hawai‘i.
Hepatitis in Hawai‘i
Hawai‘i has the highest rate of liver cancer in the U.S., and leading cause of liver cancer in Hawai’i is hepatitis B.  According to HDOH, about 40,000 people in Hawai‘i may be living with hepatitis B, and most are unaware of their infection.  The people most at risk for hepatitis B are those born in Asia and the Pacific, including Republic of Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia. Unfortunately, most of these people do not get tested or do not get medical care to manage hepatitis B.
Micronesian Education Liver Wellness Program (MELWP)
To address this important health issue for Micronesians, HFH partnered with local community leaders to relaunch MELWP to increase awareness and action around hepatitis B. The program will provide free educational “talk story” sessions for Micronesian community members on Oahu to increase conversation and reduce stigma around this deadly disease.
“We don’t have to let hepatitis take our communities. We can take action,” states Kenson Alik, MELWP Director and a hepatitis B survivor. “We hope that MELWP will empower local Micronesian communities to fight back against hepatitis. As someone who has been through it, I know that this is important for the health of our community!”
According to Alik, community members can take action against hepatitis B by:
  1. Getting educated about hepatitis B
  2. Getting tested for hepatitis B
  3. Getting vaccinated for hepatitis B
  4. Getting treated for hepatitis B
Giving a Voice to Micronesia
In May 2015, Alik was one of five people from Hawaii selected for a Caring Ambassadors scholarship to advocate for hepatitis B prevention in Washington D.C. With the support of Hep Free Hawaii, he met with Hawaii legislators to share the importance of increased hepatitis B services for all Asians and Pacific Islanders, especially communities born in Micronesia.
“I have experienced many difficulties due to hepatitis B,” stated Alik.  “I want to ensure that no one else from my Micronesian community has to deal with liver cancer or liver transplant.  Together, we can talk about this disease, and we can prevent it!”
For more information on how to participate in MELWP on Oahu, contact Kenson Alik at (808) 783-9756 or kenalik04@yahoo.com.
About Hep Free Hawai‘i
Hep Free Hawai‘i is a grassroots coalition of more than eighty organizations whose overall goal is to increase awareness of and access to hepatitis services in Hawai‘i.  For more information about the “Take That!” campaign, go to www.hepfreehawaii.org or follow @hepfreehawaii on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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