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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Hepatitis B and liver cancer knowledge and practices among healthcare and public health professionals in China: a cross-sectional study

Jonathan Chao1, Ellen T Chang12 and Samuel KS So1*

Author affiliations

1 Asian Liver Center at Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA

2 Cancer Prevention Institute of California (formerly the Northern California Cancer Center), Fremont, California, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:98  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-98

Published: 25 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is the leading cause of liver disease and liver cancer and a major source of health-related discrimination in China. To better target HBV detection and prevention programs, it is necessary to assess existing HBV knowledge, educational resources, reporting, and preventive practices, particularly among those health professionals who would be responsible for implementing such programs.

Methods

At the China National Conference on the Prevention and Control of Viral Hepatitis on April 26-29, 2004, the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University partnered with the China Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control to distribute a voluntary written questionnaire to Chinese healthcare and public health professionals from regional and provincial Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health departments, and medical centers. Correct responses to survey questions were summed into a total knowledge score, and multivariate linear regression was used to compare differences in the score by participant characteristics.

Results

Although the median score was 81% correct, knowledge about HBV was inadequate, even among such highly trained health professionals. Of the 250 participants who completed the survey, 34% did not know that chronic HBV infection is often asymptomatic and 29% did not know that chronic HBV infection confers a high risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer, and premature death. Furthermore, 34% failed to recognize all the modes of HBV transmission and 30% did not know the importance of the hepatitis B vaccine in preventing liver disease. Respondents who reported poorer preventive practices, such as not having personally been tested for HBV and not routinely disposing of used medical needles, scored significantly lower in HBV knowledge than those who reported sound preventive practices. Of note, 38% of respondents reported positive HBsAg results to patients' employers and 25% reported positive results to patients' schools, thereby subjecting those with positive results to potential discriminatory practices.

Conclusions

These results indicate that there is a need for development of effective educational programs to improve HBV knowledge among health professionals and the general public to avoid missed vaccination opportunities, reduce misconceptions, and eliminate discrimination based on chronic hepatitis B in China.