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Saving Lives in San Mateo County – Hep B Free Campaign

Posted on Sep 5, 2012 in Community News


Hepatitis B is a serious disease of the liver, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Caused by the hepatitis B virus, the disease can go virtually unnoticed until it’s too late, says Dirk Baumann, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula vascular surgeon and chair of the San Mateo Hep B Free Campaign.

“One quarter of people infected die of liver failure or cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in certain Asian populations”, he says. “For this reason, hepatitis B is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’.”

In 2009, the San Mateo County Medical Association Community Service Foundation along with a strong steering committee pooled their resources to begin the San Mateo Hep B Free Campaign. Modeled after the highly successful San Francisco Hep B Free program, its goal is to raise awareness about the severity of the disease in San Mateo County. “San Mateo County has an incredibly diverse population, of which nearly 26 percent are Asians and Pacific Islanders (API),” Dr. Baumann says. “One out of every 10 people in this population has chronic hepatitis B, and two thirds do not know it.”

Dirk Baumann, M.D.

San Mateo Hep B Free has sponsored dozens of educational, screening and vaccination events, published informational articles and held educational forums for the public and health care providers.

Strength in Numbers

Four major organizations are collaborating on this lifesaving campaign: San Mateo County Medical Association, the Hospital Consortium of San Mateo County (which includes Mills-Peninsula Health Services), San Mateo County Health System and the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University. Mills-Peninsula has played a critical role in facilitating screening and vaccination events over the last three years. In addition to logistical support, the hospital has provided blood drawing and laboratory services, Dr. Baumann says.

“San Mateo Hep B Free seeks to unite community and medical stakeholders to promote awareness of hepatitis B,” says Whitney Wood, director. “We’ve gained the support of Assembly woman Fiona Ma, Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Anna Eschoo, and City of Millbrae Councilman Wayne Lee. We’ve also garnered backing from community organizations such as the San Francisco and Millbrae Lions and Leos Clubs, Self Help for the Elderly, the San Francisco State and Cañada College of Nursing as well as community leaders such as Ted Fang.”

Whitney Wood, Director

“The program includes routine screening and vaccination of API adults and assistance for those who test positive for chronic hepatitis B,” Dr. Baumann says. “Joining efforts with the San Mateo County Medical Association, San Mateo Hep B Free has arranged for specialty physician management of these patients, irrespective of insurance coverage.”