— Christine M. Kukka, Project Manager, HBV Advocate
About 10% of Asian-Americans have chronic hepatitis B, but few have been screened or treated for the infection that can lead to liver cancer. Most health education and outreach programs have failed to reach this population due to cultural, language and economic barriers.
A recent liver cancer education program in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area, spear-headed by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers, found that a culturally-adept program that employed native language speakers, a role-playing slide presentation, and a graphic novel increased hepatitis B screening markedly.
The researchers worked with local Vietnamese-, Chinese- and Korean-American community groups to develop education materials that would be suitable to Asian-Americans. The program workers fanned out to recruit potentially at-risk Asian-Americans from Korean Christian churches, Buddhist temples, nail salons, and Chinese language schools.
About half of those recruited (436) were assigned to a control group that received an English language brochure about hepatitis B. The other half (441) participated in a 30-minute education program about hepatitis B and liver cancer in their own language from Asian-American health educators. They watched a role-playing slide presentation that featured Asian-Americans asking doctors about hepatitis B and lab tests, and were given a photo novel about hepatitis B and liver cancer that featured Asian-Americans.
Six months later, both groups were interviewed by phone to see if they had been screened for hepatitis B as a result of the two interventions.
About 34% of the culturally-customized program participants had been screened for hepatitis B. In contrast, only 10% of the control group had been screened.
“In conclusion, this culturally integrated intervention program yielded a substantial increase in screening behavior in under-served, high-risk, Asian minority populations,” researchers wrote in the U.S. Centers for Disease control and Prevention’s February issue of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
“We recommend providing culturally and linguistically integrated educational programs as one way to change social norms to increase preventive behavior,” they added, stressing that their program provides a model for large-scale community initiatives that promote hepatitis B and liver cancer prevention among high-risk groups.
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