Understanding how to live with hepatitis B: a qualitative investigation of peer advice for Chinese people living with hepatitis B in Australia

Jack Wallace, Yinzong Xiao, Jess Howell, Alex Thompson, Nicole Allard, Emily Adamson, Jacqui Richmond, Behzad Hajarizadeh, Melanie Eagle, Joseph Doyle, Margaret Hellard

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Background: Hepatitis B is a chronic viral infection, a leading cause of primary liver cancer and identified as a major public health priority by the World Health Organization. Despite a high proportion of people in Australia who have been diagnosed with hepatitis B, significant gaps remain in health care access and in accurate knowledge about hepatitis B. Most people with hepatitis B in Australia were born in China, where the infection has an intergenerational impact with significant social implications resulting from the infection. Understanding how people of Chinese ethnicity with hepatitis B understand and respond to hepatitis B is imperative for reducing morbidity, mortality, and the personal and social impact of the infection. Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews with people with hepatitis B of Chinese ethnicity recruited through a specialist service identified the advice people with hepatitis B thought was important enough to inform the experience of people newly diagnosed with hepatitis B. A thematic analysis of the data privileged the lived experience of participants and their personal, rather than clinical, explanations of the virus. Results: Hepatitis B infection had psychological and physical consequences that were informed by cultural norms, and to which people had responded to with significant behavioural change. Despite this cohort being engaged with specialist clinical services with access to the most recent, comprehensive, and expert information, much of the advice people with hepatitis B identified as important for living with hepatitis B was not based on biomedical understandings. Key suggestions from people with hepatitis B were to form sustainable clinical relationships, develop emotional resilience, make dietary changes, regulate energy, and issues related to disclosure. Conclusions: The study highlights conflicts between biomedical and public health explanations and the lived experience of hepatitis B among people of Chinese ethnicity in Australia. Beliefs about hepatitis B are embedded within cultural understandings of health that can conflict with bio-medical explanations of the infection. Acknowledging these perspectives provides for insightful communication between health services and their clients, and the development of nuanced models of care informed by the experience of people with hepatitis B.

Original languageEnglish
Article number536
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • China
  • Diagnosis
  • Health beliefs
  • Health information
  • Hepatitis B virus

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