Prof. Sharon Hutchinson, photo by World Hepatitis Alliance.
Since being commissioned by the European Liver Patients’ Association (ELPA) in 2016, the Hep-CORE study has engaged patient groups on an annual basis in monitoring national and subnational viral hepatitis policy across Europe and the Mediterranean Basin.
In this new series, an update of the 2016 Hep-CORE interview series, the Principal Investigator (PI) Jeffrey Lazarus conducts interviews with new members of the Hep-CORE advisory group to understand their individual experience and the perspectives that they bring to bear on this patient-led study. Here he interviews Professor Sharon Hutchinson, a Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health at Glasgow Caledonian University. She holds an honorary appointment at Health Protection Scotland and has over 20 years of experience in conducting epidemiological research (population-based surveys, novel record-linkage studies, and statistical/economic models) to inform on the design and impact of public health interventions. Prof Hutchinson leads a broad translational research programme on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses and is also one of the newest members of the Hep-CORE Advisory Group.
Can you briefly describe your experience in the viral hepatitis field and what brought you to be a part of the Hep-CORE Study Group?
My research provided the key evidence to guide a public health response to hepatitis C in Scotland, which culminated in the Scottish Government investing significantly in their Action Plan. The evidenced-based National Plan – cited as an example of best practice by the United Nations Drug Policy Unit and the Global Commission on Drugs – was the stimulus for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Hepatitis Alliance to stage the inaugural World Hepatitis Summit (involving governments and civil society representatives from over 80 countries) in Glasgow in 2015.
Thereafter, I worked with WHO on the establishment of Viral Hepatitis Country Profiles which generated data on the progress of Member States in establishing national plans and policies to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Through my involvement in these national and international initiatives on viral hepatitis, I joined the Hep-CORE Study Group in 2018.
"My research provided the key evidence to guide a public health response to hepatitis C in Scotland, which culminated in the Scottish Government investing significantly in their Action Plan"
What makes Hep-CORE unique in the viral hepatitis research realm?
A lack of awareness of and prioritization for viral hepatitis by policymakers and practitioners is driven by the lack of data and information. Hep-CORE has helped fill that information gap through generation of up-to-date patient perspectives on progress being made at the national and international level to address viral hepatitis. Research conducted by Hep-CORE has revealed important gaps in policy and practice. This initiative will be pivotal going forward to highlight progress of countries, or lack thereof, to deliver on WHO’s goals and recommendations in pursuit of viral hepatitis elimination as a public health threat by 2030.
Eliminate hepatitis map: WHO infographic developed in collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University and Health Protection Scotland.
What do you see as the role for hepatitis patient groups in research and advocacy?
Patient groups have been instrumental over the past 15 years in elevating viral hepatitis onto the global public health stage, as evidenced by the 2016 publication of the first-ever WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis. The WHO Viral Hepatitis Country Profiles have also demonstrated that governments that engage with civil society are more advanced in their hepatitis response. Compared to many other public health priorities, viral hepatitis has received little research investment. Patient groups can contribute extensively to all aspects of research, but their role in advocating for further investment in innovation on viral hepatitis should be emphasized.
"Patient groups have been instrumental over the past 15 years in elevating viral hepatitis onto the global public health stage, as evidenced by the 2016 publication of the first-ever WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis"
What would you like to see happen after this years Hep-CORE 2018 study results come in?
Hep-CORE data can help us understand where progress is being made and where gaps exist. Since civil society and other stakeholder groups can utilize these data to increase awareness of, and promote investment in, activities needed to eliminate viral hepatitis, the results should quickly be made available.
Based on your experience in the viral hepatitis field, what is the most urgent/crucial area to be addressed in future research?
Scaling-up hepatitis services are required in order to reach targets on viral hepatitis elimination. Future research needs to determine the most effective and cost-effective approaches to delivering services for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis – to help direct where investment can have the greatest impact in terms of public health benefit.
Further links to publications and research outputs: Prof. Sharon Hutchinson, Glasgow Caledonian University Research Repository
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