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Screening for Hepatitis B and C among migrants in the European Union [EU-HEP-SCREEN] [20101105] - Project
General objectives

Chronic viral hepatitis B and C is a major health problem in many European countries. Migrants from endemic areas in particular, are the most affected and underserved population groups. The general objective of this project is to assess, describe and communicate to public health professionals the tools and conditions necessary for implementing successful screening programmes for hepatitis B and C among migrants in the European Union.

Strategic relevance and contribution to the public health programme

Screening programmes for hepatitis B and C in European countries target blood donors, pregnant women and behavioural high-risk groups. The purpose of these programmes is primary prevention - for hepatitis B through vaccination- rather than detection of chronically infected individuals. Recent advancements in treatment for chronic hepatitis B and C have made secondary prevention possible and there is an urgent need to identify patients who qualify for treatment. Migrants from endemic countries are at risk but are currently not targeted in screening programmes. The European added value is ensured as lessons learned from screening specific migrant groups in specific countries, and the assessment of the evidence base for screening, will be translated into an array of communication materials, methods, recommendations and information that will be widely applicable and available to public health professionals in the EU and that can be adapted to local circumstances and specific target groups. The project also fits into current health policies to connect prevention and curation.

Methods and means

Central in the project are four pilot studies using different screening strategies: 1) information and outreaching, combined with testing through local general practitioners; 2) combined information and testing on location; 3) opportunistic and systematic case finding in general practice; and 4) case finding through existing screening programs. Depending on the contents of the respective work packages, different methods and means will be used to achieve the general objective. Methods include literature review and surveys with structured questionnaires to obtain additional information from experts. Communication materials will be collected and a module in the project website will be developed to facilitate information and communication exchange with health care professionals. The main product of the project is a tool kit for policy makers and public health professionals containing recommendations, information and materials on implementing a screening program.

Expected outcomes period

The project will lay the foundation for the expansion of nationwide screening and prevention programmes for hepatitis B and C among migrants in the EU. This will be achieved through a sequence of outcomes of the project resulting in a comprehensive overview and analysis of knowledge on the clinical management of hepatitis B and C in migrants, an appraisal of alternative screening strategies, and methods for effective communication to the target population. Based on the integration of the outcomes, best practices for screening will be defined and a tool kit will be developed, which gives instruments and information on the practical aspects of implementing a screening programme, together with the recommendations and materials collected and developed in the project. A tool kit will enhance the capacity of public health professionals by allowing them to design an effective screening programme for their country or region, targeted at specific migrant groups.

Start date: 01/10/2011
End date: 01/11/2014
Duration: 37 month(s)
Current status: Finalised
Programme title: Second Programme of Community action in the Field of Health 2008-2013
EC Contribution: € 792 751,57