We human beings have a tendency to put off everything to the last minute, especially our health. When we don’t feel pain or when we feel we are in tip top shape, we skip a dental or doctor’s appointment just because we feel we don’t have an eed for it. The same thing goes for going to Church, when we feel that life is rosy and we have all the money in the world, we proclaim we don’t need God and skip Mass or church services altogether. Health, both physical and spiritual, become secondary to our material needs, that when we do get hit with the worst illness ever, we are at a loss on what to do.
We take our bodies for granted just because it doesn’t give us problems. Annual check-ups were invented so that, just like a well-oiled machine, we can maintain our functions well, and avoid the unnecessary aches and pains that will come when we least expect them. Even annual check-ups, however, are skipped in favour of other activities. When we skip our check-ups, we give illnesses a license to wreak havoc on our bodies, until we could no longer do anything about it.
Those of us who are of Filipino or Chinese descent have a host of illnesses that are undetectable, simply because they are illnesses that affect parts of our body we cannot see. When we look at our family health history, we see relatives who have succumbed to lung cancer, diabetes, or heart attacks, simply because they did not see it coming. We owe all of this to our robust eating habits and our high sugar, salt and fat diets. The onset of these illness come when we get older, and by then it is too late, and we scrambles to get our check-ups done.
The liver is one of those organs that has a lot of functions and is related to other parts of our digestive system, such as pancreas, as its functions are directly involved with these other organs. Hepatitis B is hyper-endemic in the Philippines with a rate of 16.7% in the adult population over age 20 and due to the fact that although an immunization program was introduced in 1992, universal vaccination has not been achieved. Three quarters of the 240-400 million carriers of Hepatitis B reside in Asia/Southeast Asia.
According to the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) of BC, Hepatitis B is a ‘silent killer’. It is a major health issue among Chinese and Filipinos. The disease does not exhibit any signs or symptoms for up to 20-30 years. When Hepatitis B is left untreated, it can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and death. This is why the CLF has launched a free blood screening in the month of April and May, specifically calling on Canadians with Filipino or Chinese descent. Its purpose is to investigate the prevalence of Hepatitis B Carriers who are unaware of their carrier status in Greater Vancouver and to promote early diagnosis which will lead to early treatment thereby saving lives. Hepatitis B screening costs $40 and is not covered by MSP, so people should take advantage of this opportunity to know whether they carry the disease or not so it can be managed earlier.
Participants consenting to have their blood drawn will be contacted if their results test positive indicating that they are a Hepatitis B carrier. By doing a simple blood test, an individual will know right away whether they are a Hepatitis B carrier. The individual will then be contacted and asked to see their doctor for immediate follow up.
Last April 21 was the first in the series of blood screenings, and out of the hundreds who came to the Broadway Church in Vancouver, only six Filipinos came to be tested. The CLF has purposely found donors to make this service free, and to see very few Filipinos taking advantage of the screening is sad. Hopefully, more will come to other screenings, such as the one at St Patrick’s Church in Vancouver, and another one in IC Delta. With the highest rate of Hepatitis B in the world, whether or not we are carriers, we Filipinos should all know whether this silent killer is within us, so that we may be able to move forward and do what’s necessary to live better, longer lives.