In 2015 more people died of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection than received direct acting antivirals, a stark reminder of the need for expanded hepatitis services around the world. Together Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HCV cause more than one million deaths each year.
Global hepatitis testing guidelines are necessary to help guide program managers and policy makers in diverse settings. Yet how can experts at the World Health Organization develop comprehensive, practical guidelines for global hepatitis B and C testing when there are so few examples of best practices? This was the conundrum that inspired the HepTestContest, a global innovation contest to solicit case studies on hepatitis B and C testing. The complete description of this innovation contest was recently published in BMC Infectious Diseases.
The purpose of the HepTestContest was to identify best practice cases of hepatitis B or C testing in order to enrich and supplement the World Health Organization Global Hepatitis Testing Guidelines.
First, our team reached out to many organizations that are on the frontlines of implementing hepatitis testing, creating a steering committee. The call for entries (including a website and short video) was widely distributed using social media, eliciting descriptions of potential hepatitis testing programs. Then each case description was evaluated by a panel of judges.
We received 64 cases from 27 countries around the world. Thirty-one cases were deemed excellent and received a commendation from the steering committee. Ultimately, sixteen cases were sufficiently strong to be directly included in the 2017 WHO Hepatitis Testing Guidelines. Cases covered a broad range of topics, including HIV-hepatitis testing integration, harm reduction and hepatitis testing integration, and using electronic medical records to support targeted testing.
The innovation contest was useful for community-based organizations, policy-makers, and researchers. From a community-based organization perspective, the contest provided recognition and support for many excellent organizations. Five finalists from the contest were invited to present their findings at the International Liver Conference in 2016.
From a policy perspective, this project provides case studies that may help enrich local hepatitis testing guideline development. From a research perspective there is still lots of work to be done: few of the selected programs have been rigorously evaluated, suggesting the need for further research on hepatitis testing.
The concept of innovation challenges has picked up momentum in the global hepatitis field. The 2017 World Hepatitis Summit included an innovation category for submissions, encouraging local implementers to contribute.