Little Hep B Hero to the rescue! Explaining viral hepatitis to kids
26 April 2018
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt issued a statement supporting the launch of Little Hep B Hero.
“Hepatitis B is rarely discussed openly even within families. This engaging ‘Little Hep B Hero’ book for six to twelve year olds will help to bring hepatitis B out of the shadows and provide a new way to stimulate informed family discussion to promote greater understanding of hepatitis B –a frequently misunderstood and stigmatised condition,” he said.
237,000 Australians (approximately 1 per cent of the population) live with hepatitis B, a disease that if not treated can lead to cirrhosis and deadly liver cancer. In 2016, 412 people died from hepatitis B related causes in Australia, a tragic number that could have been avoided if there was more awareness of the problem and better management of the disease.
“The social stigma surrounding viral hepatitis is one of the major reasons people don’t seek diagnosis or treatment,” said Melanie Eagle, CEO of Hepatitis Victoria.
“Further complications occur because the people most affected often find it difficult to discuss within their family,” she said.
Today, Hepatitis Victoria, the peak body in the state advocating for people with viral hepatitis, is launching a unique children’s book and animation Little Hep B Hero at Brunswick North Primary School and Brunswick Library.
The book, now available in English, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese, was supported by a community grant under the Hepatitis B Community Education Project, administered by Hepatitis Australia and funded from the Australian Government, Department of Health under the Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Prevention Programme.
The idea behind Little Hep B Hero emerged precisely from the dilemma experienced by a young mum -a volunteer at Hepatitis Victoria- who had difficulty explaining her hepatitis status to her young child.
“I don’t know how to tell my kids they I am living with a potentially deadly disease,” said the mother who was part of a working group helping with the project.
“They need to know and understand the journey and what it means to our lives. I don’t know where to begin, but all I know is I want my children to be my little hep B heroes,” she said.
“Imagine trying to tell a 10-year old boy why his father can’t play football with him like he used to? Or reassuring a 6-year-old about why her mother goes to the doctor so often? How do you explain the cause of vague symptoms such as tiredness, irritability and mood swings?” Melanie said.
Little Hep B Hero answers these questions through the story of two curious children as they learn about their friendly neighbour Rosa, who is poorly with hepatitis B. The story challenges negative stereotypes and carefully weaves messages about how the disease is spread and can be prevented. It is charmingly illustrated with a glossary and discussion points for families, teachers and children.
“We want to inspire our kids to become their parents’ 'Little Hep B Heroes',” said Aurora Tang, Community Education and Engagement Manager for Hepatitis Victoria.
“There is an urgent need to tackle stigma and explain to families what hepatitis B is, and how it can be tackled especially in groups where there is a high prevalence of chronic hepatitis B related liver cancer, such as people from Vietnam and Chinese-speaking regions,” she said.
“With more knowledge, each child can play an essential part in providing care and support within the family and also act as an ambassador for general community awareness to destigmatize hepatitis B in the community,” Aurora said.
The concept behind Little Hep B Hero was presented at the 2017 World Hepatitis Summit in Sao Paolo. Joseph Tucker, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, and Chair of Innovation Subgroup at the 2017 World Hepatitis Summit said in a testimonial:
“This fascinating book was composed of stories from the local community, providing a people centered resource for telling children about living with hepatitis. The book concept was submitted to the 2017 World Hepatitis Summit innovation track and selected for oral presentation based on innovation, clarity, and public health impact. This book can help to amplify community awareness of hepatitis and spark family discussions. I highly recommend it for families, children, and communities talking about hepatitis.”
Associate Professor Benjamin Cowie, Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis said:
“Nothing is more important than family. When we say hepatitis B is family business, we acknowledge the need to support people living with hepatitis B within their family context, and not in isolation. This wonderful little book does just that, by helping out with what is for some people a very difficult thing - the talk about hep B with their loved ones. I look forward to sharing this resource with my patients, so together we can create as many Little Hep B Heroes as possible!”