This year marks the 20th anniversary of singer and songwriter Jon Secada’s debut CD, which featured the smash hits “Just Another Day” and “I Believe In Us.” But though the Grammy winner is putting the finishing touches on a new album, he has more than music on his mind. After his father, José, died of complications from chronic hepatitis C late last year, Jon has lent his voice—and a brand-new song—to a public awareness campaign called Tune in to Hep C, co-sponsored by the American Liver Foundation and Merck.
“For years, I had no idea my father was sick,” he says. “Chronic hepatitis C is a silent killer.”
An estimated 3.2 million Americans have the disease, which can cause liver disease or liver cancer. One-third of hepatitis C sufferers in the U.S. are Hispanic—a statistic that also motivated Jon to speak out. We caught up with him during a busy day of bilingual interviews to chat about the cause.
Spry: When did you find out that your father had chronic hepatitis C?
Jon Secada: I found out about 10 years ago, many years after he’d been diagnosed. We lost him about six months ago from complications stemming from the disease. Little by little, it had been killing him.
Spry: Did you know much about the disease at the time?
JS: No, but I have learned so much since becoming involved with this awareness campaign. It’s the No. 1 infectious disease in the U.S., and one-third of Americans who have it are Hispanic. The website for the campaign, Tuneintohepc.com, has everything you need to know about the disease and your options, from A to Z.
That’s one thing I regret, as a son and a loved one. If I’d known earlier that my father had hepatitis C, I could have helped him. I could have encouraged him to go to his doctor, to do whatever was necessary to take care of himself.
Spry: I think that’s something a lot of people go through with their parents, no matter what the specific health issues.
JS: Yes, or any loved one. But your health really starts with yourself. We lead busy lives; sometimes our health is the last thing we pay attention to. With hepatitis C, there may be some embarrassment or taboos. But it’s important to break those barriers and not let something like this take over your body. There are more treatment options today than ever. There’s no shame—it doesn’t matter how you got the disease. But you have to be in charge of yourself.
That’s what the song “Your Voice Inside,” which I wrote for the campaign, is about: being honest with yourself. The first line of the chorus is, “You’re the difference, you’re the one.” You have to help yourself.
Spry: Do you have any sense of why chronic hepatitis C is so prevalent in the Hispanic-American population?
JS: No, but it’s a statistic that is real, and that’s the reason that I’m very proud of the Tune In to Hep C campaign, to create that kind of awareness and outreach. Hispanic Americans are an ever-growing community in the U.S.
If I were to look at my dad, he was a very private man, a hard-working man. That is the history of a lot of Hispanic-Americans, very humble beginnings, hard work. For a lot of people, when it comes to dealing with your health, you don’t have time or it’s the last thing you think about at the end of the day. And that’s what we’re here trying to fix, asking people to make their health a priority. I wish I’d had the opportunity to know more and pass it on to my dad before he died.
Spry: You’ll be travelling all over the U.S. and Latin America to promote your new CD and the campaign this year. How do you stay healthy on the road?
JS: Just basic things: get as much rest as possible, eat well and exercise, take my vitamins. The simple things. It’s all a matter of general health for me. I try to lead as disciplined a life as possible. And so far, so good!