Washington D.C. (JULY 2013) – On July 25, World Hepatitis Day, the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation honored Joan M. Block, RN, BSN, executive director of the Hepatitis B Foundation for bringing incidents of discrimination of hepatitis B-infected healthcare workers and medical students to the attention of the U.S. government. Also honored was Anna S. Lok, M.D., F.R.C.P., director of Clinical Hepatology at the University of Michigan Health System, with whom Block has worked for many years in counseling HBV-infected students, and together they approached the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) for help. As a result of their combined efforts, hepatitis B is now an officially recognized disability protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“With the help of many people and organizations such as the Department of Justice, we are very pleased that hepatitis B is now a recognized disability. It is important that healthcare providers and medical students who have been diagnosed with hepatitis B do not face discrimination,” said Block. “As we continue to devote time and research to combating this disease, it is wonderful to receive recognition for our strides. I accept the award on behalf of the Hepatitis B Foundation and the people we serve.”
Established by Joan and her husband Timothy M. Block, Ph.D., along with Paul and Jan Witte in 1991, the Hepatitis B Foundation is the only national nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B. In 1992, they sought the help of Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the hepatitis B virus, and with his active support, the Foundation grew from a grassroots effort into a national nonprofit research and disease advocacy organization with a global reach. Today, it funds one of the largest concentrations of hepatitis B scientists in the world and reaches millions of people in more than 180 countries each year.
As a nurse, Block has always been committed to caring for patients and making sure that the healthcare system worked to their benefit. Today, her commitment extends to creating and leading the hepatitis B Foundation’s outreach, public health and national advocacy programs to help improve the lives of those affected by the disease worldwide. Dr. Timothy Block leads the Foundation’s research institute that is searching for a cure and developing early detection biomarkers for cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Block serves on the boards of the Hepatitis B Foundation, Institute for Hepatitis and Virus Research and the Medical Advisory Boards of Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases and HIV Project Prevent. She is co-founder and co-chair of Hep B United, a national coalition; member of the National Hepatitis B Task Force, Hepatitis B Expert Panel of the Office of Minority Health and National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. She has served as a national board member of the American Liver Foundation. Her clinical experiences encompass pediatric oncology, adult cardiac care and nursing education.
Hepatitis B is the most common serious liver infection and the primary cause of liver cancer worldwide. Two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus (one out of three) and 400 million are chronically infected. Each year, 1 million people die prematurely from hepatitis B-related liver disease and liver cancer. In the U.S., an estimated 2 million Americans are chronically infected with hepatitis B – that is one in 20. The good news is that hepatitis B is preventable and treatable. However, for the 400 million people living with chronic hepatitis B infections, there is still no complete cure.
About the Hepatitis B Foundation: Located in Doylestown, Pa., the Hepatitis B Foundation is the only national nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the quality of life for those affected worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. To learn more, go to www.hepb.org, read the blog at http://wp.hepb.org, follow the Foundation on Twitter @HepBFoundation and Facebook at www.facebook.com/hepbfoundation or call (215) 489-4900.
Photo Caption: (Pictured L to R) John Ward, M.D., Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Division of Viral Hepatitis with Joan M. Block, RN, BSN, executive director of the Hepatitis B Foundation, who was honored on July 25, 2013 by the World Hepatitis Day, the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation for bringing incidents of discrimination of hepatitis B-infected healthcare workers and medical students to the attention of the U.S. government.