Report Card: Pa. gets a ‘C’ for efforts to fight, eliminate hepatitis | Tuesday Morning Coffee

State health officials say they’re working to improve, call for approval of bills that aid in the fight

January 25, 2022 6:58 am

(Getty Images)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A newly released report card gives Pennsylvania a “C’ for its efforts to fight hepatitis, a pernicious illness that causes liver disease and liver cancer and can lead to death.

The findings were released by a new coalition of research and advocacy groups, including the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center, that’s working to eliminate viral hepatitis by the turn of the decade. Collectively, the groups are known as Hep ElimiNATION

Nationwide, some 5 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis B and/or chronic hepatitis C, the coalition said in a statement. And new infections spiked during the pandemic, which also has seen the continuation of the opioid overdose epidemic.

Only a quarter of adults are currently vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus, and treatment levels for hepatitis C declined “disturbingly” between 2014 and 2020, the coalition said in its statement, citing recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hep ElimiNATION is built on the important understanding that eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030, an ambitious goal set by the World Health Organization, requires a collective effort by federal and state policymakers, public health agencies, advocacy partners, community-based organizations, and those with lived experience,” Sonia Canzater, the associate director of the O’Neill Institute, said in a statement.

The coalition graded all 50 states, along with Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, on a 5-part scale, which is based on their ability to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030, and their respective alignment with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Hepatitis National Strategic Plan.

Below, a look at how Pennsylvania scored on that scale.

(Getty Images/Colorado Newsline)

The Keystone State scored:

  • 0/5 points for its state viral hepatitis elimination plan development
  • 1.5/8.5 points for its harm reduction laws
  • 0/5.5 points for its dedicated budget allocation
  • 24/31 points for improving its treatment and prevention outcomes
  • 2/5 points for improving its viral surveillance efforts

According to the coalition, several states “already have published elimination plans since the beginning of 2019 to address critical issues that impact a state’s ability to tackle viral hepatitis.”

In an e-mail, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Health Department told the Capital-Star that the agency is “continuing to make progress in the fight against Hepatitis C and take steps to improve our score, such as finalizing our elimination plan and making it public-facing.”

The spokesperson, Mark O’Neill, said the Health Department supports the passage of House and Senate bills that would expand access to sterile syringes and other public health services, such as HIV and hepatitis testing. Acting Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson is a supporter, O’Neill added.

“These programs do not exist to encourage drug use – they exist to reduce harm and build trust with participants to ultimately help them get treatment for substance use disorder along with any other health care needs,” the Health Department said.

Such programs “also increase public safety and protect law enforcement and first responders by properly disposing of used syringes,” the Health Department said

The department also is “seeking additional funding from the state budget for Hepatitis C, which would improve our score substantially,” O’Neill told the Capital-Star.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Dressed in top hats and coats, advocates for a legislative gift ban took their cause to the streets on Monday night as they gathered outside a fundraiser for the highest-ranking Senate Republican and the Harrisburg home of the No. 2 GOP lawmaker in the state House. Marley Parish has the details.

Pennsylvania courts are likely to pick Pennsylvania’s new congressional map after Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to reach a deal, Stephen Caruso and Marley Parish report.

Correspondent Frank Pizzoli explains how one central Pennsylvania TV station’s coverage provided a teachable moment on transgender issues.

The head of Philadelphia’s firefighters’ union sought President Joe Biden’s help to reopen some city firehouses, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: From critical race theory to voting rights, America’s just as racist as ever, the Philadelphia Tribune’s Michael Coard writes. And the end of the child tax credit means many American families will now struggle to get food on the table, two scholars write.

(Image via Getty Images)

Pennsylvania’s nursing homes are racing to play catch up on staff vaccinations and boosters, the Inquirer reports.

The Tribune-Review has your list of pick-up sites for N95 masks in western Pennsylvania.

GOP-led Chambersburg, in Franklin County, has become the first Pennsylvania community to revoke anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents, PennLive reports.

After 30 years in Act 47 protection, Scranton has finally shed its distressed city status, and officials are looking to the future, the Times-Tribune reports.

Local officials in Manheim Township have parted ways with their township manager, replacing him with a former fire chief, LancasterOnline reports.

The AHL Hershey Bears set a team record with their annual ‘Teddy Bear Toss’ event, the York Daily Record reports.

Officials in Emmaus Borough, Lehigh County, have shut down one of two wells and ordered a $400,000 filtration system after so-called ‘forever chemicals’ were detected, the Morning Call reports.

The state has sent its first ‘strike team’ to Bucks County to assist healthcare workers, WHYY-FM reports.

After facing historic demand during the pandemic, Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks are making improvements and adding jobsGoErie reports.

City & State runs down the Top 50 political consultants in Pennsylvania.

PoliticsPA has a new managing editor — meet Steve Ulrich, who was, until recently, an elections official in York County.

As tensions continue to build between Ukraine and Russia, the Pentagon is prepping American forces for a potential deployment to EuropeRoll Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The House comes in at 11 a.m., the Senate convenes at 1 p.m. today.
9 a.m., 523 Irvis: House Children & Youth Committee
9:30 a.m, 8E-B East Wing: Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
9:30 a.m., 8E-A East Wing: Senate Local Government Committee
10 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Labor & Industry Committee
10 a.m., 140 Main Capitol: Performance-Based Budget Board
10 a.m., B31 Main Capitol: House Transportation Committee
10:30 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Health & Human Services Committee
Call of the Chair, 140 Main Capitol: House Appropriations Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Napoleon Nelson
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Emily Kinkead
5 p.m.: Reception for the Dauphin County Republican Party Chairman’s Club
5:30 p.m.: Reception for House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton
5:30 p.m.: Reception for House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Stan Saylor
6 p.m., Reception for Rep. Greg Rothman
Ride the circuit, and give at the max at every event, and you’re out an eye-watering $23,500 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf does an 8:06 a.m. interview with KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh this morning.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from The Wallflowers for your Tuesday morning. From their debut LP, it’s the lovely “Three Marlenas.”

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Philadelphia lost their 12th game in a row on Monday, going down to defeat, 3-1, to the Dallas Stars.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.