Donna R. Cryer, JD (pictured)
President & CEO, Global Liver Institute
Despite affecting more than half a billion people, liver conditions continue to be misunderstood and stigmatised, resulting in under-diagnosis, under-treatment and poor outcomes.
A new initiative to raise the profile of liver disease as a major public health issue is being launched globally.
Donna Cryer, CEO of Global Liver Institute (GLI), the non-profit organisation representing patients with liver disease, says: “Everyone is at risk of liver disease and should be concerned about their liver health.
“There are over half a billion people living with some form of liver disease, most of whom do not know that. That is why we feel it should be positioned in the pantheon of public health issues.”
A public health issue
The Liver Health is Public Health (LHPH) Initiative, launched this March by Global Liver Institute, will be a multiyear initiative that aims to see liver health given the same status among the general public, researchers, doctors and policymakers as heart, brain and other major health issues. GLI looks forward to working collaboratively with the more than 200 global partners across GLI’s liver councils on the LHPH initiative. The LHPH Initiative is endorsed by the Hepatology Society of the Philippines, the European Society for Organ Transplant, Liver Patients International, the European Reference Network on Metabolic Diseases, Turkish Association for the Study of the Liver and GLI’s Liver Action Network including 12 global liver patient advocacy organisations.
Founded in 2014 and based in Washington DC with offices in Rome and Edinburgh, Global Liver Institute works with partner organisations and societies in numerous countries and covers all aspects of liver health from cancer, fatty liver diseases, paediatric and rare liver diseases.
Most people do not know there are so many potential causes of liver disease, whether they are environmental, nutritional, genetic or autoimmune disease.
Through LHPH it also wants to alert people of the influence they can have on their liver health by what they eat and the exercise they take.
Cryer, who had a liver transplant 27 years ago after developing a rare autoimmune liver disease, says: “I was blessed to receive the gift of life but I hope that I can prevent people from ever needing a liver transplant. But if they do, they need to get all the innovation and care that would help them lead a healthy life.”
Although there are more than 100 different types of liver disease, the condition has been stigmatised because of a perception that it is caused primarily by alcohol.
But as Cryer points out, many cases affect children, viral hepatitis is a cause of liver cancer and one of the main conditions is NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).
“Most people do not know there are so many potential causes of liver disease, whether they are environmental, nutritional, genetic or autoimmune disease,” she says.
She also points out that COVID-19 has affected liver patients harshly and also created more liver patients, as some forms of COVID have caused liver damage.