This article was written by Thelma Thiel, Founder and Chair of the Liver Health Initiative. Viewpoints included in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the O’Neill Institute, the Hepatitis Policy Project or its sponsors.
All the media attention highlighting the dramatic increase in opioid and other drug addition, as well as the rising rates of hepatitis and related liver cancer, obesity, and diabetes fails to mention that all these diseases are liver related and preventable. Individuals could prevent the occurrence of these diseases by managing their own health care by developing healthier food and lifestyle behaviors. However, to do so, the missing piece is the absence of effective educational information and initiatives to motivate them.
For decades, we have failed to provide basic information about the importance of the liver, the organ that is under attack, in sustaining one’s health and of life itself. Few people know that this non-complaining, complex organ and its millions of liver cells perform mini miracles 24/7 in converting everything we eat, breathe, and absorb through our skin into hundreds of life-sustaining body functions.
Individuals need to understand how unhealthy food and lifestyle choices can lead to irreparable liver cell damage called cirrhosis. Misuse and abuse of drugs and alcohol, obesity, fatty liver, early onset diabetes, and atherosclerosis lead to cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hepatitis and liver cancer. Providing the rationale for acting on what they have learned depends on their understanding the “why” and “how” to protect their miraculous life-sustaining liver.
Unless liver information about taking responsibility for protecting their internal life support system and chemical converter is provided in schools, government employees and military agencies, these chronic illnesses will continue to have devastating impact on the health and wellbeing of millions and will result to decreased life expectancy and increasing burden on our healthcare system. All while caring for chronic illnesses that could have been prevented.
It is discouraging that there is little promotion of primary prevention/liver education initiatives at the federal level, in schools or in the military, despite having been urgently recommended by over 30,000 liver specialists, nurses, healthcare providers and other members of professional organizations working on the front lines and caring for victims of liver related preventable illnesses.
Prevention, a buzz word that has lost much of its meaning, appears in numerous programs with no specific action identified. Primary prevention is essential in efforts to control the misuse and abuse of drugs and all the other liver-related illnesses. It depends on everyone making informed and healthy decisions to protect their miraculous, life-sustaining liver.
Tragically, if we fail to actively promote primary prevention that includes liver information on the national agenda, millions of individuals will continue being victims of these liver-related, preventable diseases. Precious lives will be lost, and healthcare costs will increase exponentially.
The Liver Health Initiative, whose mission is to promote healthier food and lifestyle behaviors, has developed broadly acclaimed teaching tools, brochures, a coloring book, DVDs for various age groups and a Liver Health Curriculum with “motivational soundbites”. LHI also provides Liver Health Education Training Sessions via Webinars for healthcare providers, teachers, counselors and parents. All materials are available on LHI’s website www.liver-health.org.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.