May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month and also Hepatitis Awareness Month. Coincidentally, Asian Americans are at great risk for hepatitis B, yet have the lowest rates of screening and vaccination. According to the CDC, of the estimated 1 million Americans with chronic hepatitis B about half are from the Asian/Pacific Islander (API) communities. For comparison, Asian Americans make up roughly 5% of the US population. Nearly 1 in 12 Asian Americans are chronically infected with hepatitis B, but many are unaware of their status.
How might we raise hepatitis B awareness for this cultural diverse group? Why, cultural comic books (sorta) of course!
There’s the story of a young Chinese American couple planning on getting married, but on the day of the proposal the bride-to-be confesses to her fiance that she has hepatitis B. Then there’s the one about a Korean immigrant family in which the father, who prefers traditional Asian medicine over Western medicine, discovers that his brother has liver cancer. Lastly, there’s the story of a Vietnamese American nail salon owner whose husband is diagnosed with hepatitis B, which was probably contracted by sharing razors with an infected roommate in college. No, these are are not vignettes from an Asian American film about coincidence. These are cautionary tales used in cultural, comic book-like photonovels that were developed to raise hepatitis B awareness among Asian Americans–the racial/ethnic group with the greatest risk of contracting hepatitis B.
You can read more of my post at PLOS Blogs.