Fighting Hepatitis C in San Francisco with Data Science

September 30, 2019

By DataKind San Francisco 

There’s a silent Hepatitis C epidemic within San Francisco’s homeless and marginally-housed community. While symptoms may be slow to appear, chronic Hepatitis C destroys the lives of people who are infected by causing liver scarring and failure. Fortunately, recent medical advances have transformed the treatment process from an excruciating ordeal to a relatively painless regimen of oral medication.

Glide Foundation, a charity that provides a range of services to vulnerable communities, is collaborating with the SF Department of Public Health on the End Hep C SF initiative. By informing the public of treatment options, testing populations at the highest risk of infection, and guiding people who test positive for the disease through the treatment process, Glide is playing a critical role in the drive to eliminate Hepatitis C in San Francisco. 

Since the beginning of 2019, DataKind San Francisco was privileged to help the Glide Foundation study the effectiveness of their Hepatitis C services. These efforts culminated in a DataDive on July 13 and 14, where Data Ambassadors Akshaya Vardhan and Seward Lee led a team of volunteer data scientists to analyze Glide’s diagnostics and treatment data from 2016 through 2018.

Progress Along Service Cascade

Within the End Hep C SF initiative, treatment services are structured as a “Service Cascade” -- a series of stages within the program that individuals pass through on the way towards clearing the Hepatitis C virus. To measure the effectiveness of Glide’s navigation services, DataDive volunteers analyzed how far patients progressed through the Service Cascade, and whether they reached a point where the Hepatitis C virus was no longer detectable in the blood twelve  months post-treatment (“SVR-12”). 

Some key findings that volunteers uncovered during the DataDive include:

  1. Demographics: Over the period examined, Glide had data on roughly 4,400 clients or participants in the End Hep C SF program. These clients are about 70% male and most of their ages are between 30 and 60 years. The racial makeup is about 40% White/Caucasian, 35% African American and 12% Hispanic. 
  2. Diagnostics & Treatment: 3,300 of these clients had been tested for Hepatitis C with about 795 identified as reactive or having tested positive on either a rapid or blood test. About 480 received further navigation services in addition to the test.  

First Appointment Analysis

During the DataDive, Glide wished to understand how and when patients attend their first medical appointments and begin their respective journeys through the Service Cascade. Answering these questions helps Glide advance the End Hep C SF program’s objectives to inform clients of their test results and help reactive patients make it to their first appointment.  

It can be a challenge to identify people who test positive for the disease and support them through the treatment process, considering that only 38% of the target population report stable housing. Nevertheless, analysis by the DataDive volunteers shows that over 110 participants verifiably made it to their first appointment.

Testing Facility Analysis

Another workstream tackled by the DataDive volunteers involved understanding trends and outcomes at different Hepatitis C testing locations. The End Hep C SF initiative provides testing services at 36 location types around San Francisco including Glide’s Tenderloin location, shelters, single room occupancy (SRO) accommodations, encampments, and other community centers. In a sign of the program’s strong focus on outreach, DataDive volunteers found that about 70% of its Hepatitis C testing occurs out in the field and away from Glide’s home location.  

Population Metrics Dashboard

The final workstream at the DataDive involved developing a reporting tool that would allow Glide’s staff to rapidly extract insights from their data and incorporate them into Glide’s day-to-day operations. With Google Data Studio, the DataDive volunteers created a dashboard that surfaces and visualizes the salient metrics and trends within Glide’s data. 

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Above is a screenshot of the dashboard created during the DataDive, displaying the demographic landscape of Glide participants.

The dashboard will help Glide’s Harm Reduction Services team to better understand the demographic profile of the people they serve and track the effectiveness of their services. It also provides an efficient and intuitive way for them to tell the story of their work to key stakeholders.

Thank You

DataKind San Francisco wishes to express tremendous gratitude to Kate Purdy and Paul Harkin at Glide for their patient guidance and enthusiastic support during this project. A big round of thanks also goes out to the volunteers who contributed their time and skills to helping fight SF’s Hepatitis C epidemic.

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Top row from left: Sridevi Bayyapuneedi, Niharika Maheshwari, Varsha Bhat, Gabriele Usan, Stephen Godfrey, Seward Lee Bottom row from left: Akshaya Vardhan, Kate Purdy, Anne Kerr Not pictured: Edwin Zhang

Join Us

If you’re interested in joining Glide’s mission to build healthy and loving communities within San Francisco’s poverty-stricken neighborhoods, please check Glide’s website for volunteer opportunities or email volteam@glide.org. To get involved in current and upcoming projects at DataKind San Francisco, please check the DataKind website or follow DataKind San Francisco on Facebook or LinkedIn for more information.

Header image above courtesy of the Glide Foundation.