Tackling the challenge of kidney disease in the communities it threatens most

A senior uses his smartphone.

Bruce Culleton, MD, Chief Medical Officer, CVS Kidney Care 
Joseph Vassalotti, MD, Chief Medical Officer, National Kidney Foundation 

Most of us live unaware of a health threat that affects 33% of Americans. One in three adults are at risk of developing kidney disease, and yet, few experience symptoms until they are at or near the point of kidney failure.https://www.kidney.org/newsletter/are-you-33-percent This March, during National Kidney Month, CVS Kidney Care and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) are on a mission to drive awareness and create equitable change to help all people better understand their risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD). The time is now to take preventive action.

Who gets left behind?

While 37 million adults in the U.S. are estimated to have CKD, not all segments of the population are affected equally. Black and African Americans are more than three times as likely to develop kidney failure than White Americans, and a growing number of Hispanics and Latinos are being diagnosed with kidney disease each year, increasing by more than 70 percent since 2000.https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/race-ethnicity#:~:text=African%20Americans%20are%20almost%20four,failure%20in%20the%20United%20States
Historically marginalized people also suffer from some of the highest rates of diabetes and hypertension, two leading causes of kidney failure. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/race-ethnicity#:~:text=African%20Americans%20are%20almost%20four,failure%20in%20the%20United%20States Social determinants of health, including food insecurity, access to housing, transportation and health care, are equally as important in understanding the increased risk faced by people of color.https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/whats-behind-racial-disparities-in-kidney-disease-2021020321842 Having knowledge of your health can be described broadly in terms of health literacy ⁠⁠— the skills needed to access, understand and use information to improve one’s health. In this regard, health literacy is one determinant of health that must be addressed to solve the many care disparities in patients with kidney disease.

Empowering kidney health for all patients

Addressing disparities requires a comprehensive effort that cannot be achieved by one organization alone. Our actions must be tailored to the unique needs of each individual and community, breaking down barriers that exacerbate kidney health risks and increase the challenge of receiving care. Every person deserves high-quality kidney health services guided by a data-driven approach, one that pulls in clinical, demographic and individual insights to ensure access where it’s needed most. Ongoing partnership and collaboration at the national and community level is critical to help patients understand their risk and take action in the early stages of kidney disease. 

Together, we must empower those who have been overlooked by the traditional health system with the resources, support and services they need to live healthier.

Take time for your kidneys today

Disease is often defined by its treatment. When people think about the treatment of kidney disease, they frequently default to dialysis. However, many preventive actions are available to slow disease progression if you are at risk:
Know your risk:

  • Take the Kidney Risk Quiz and learn your risk for kidney disease.

  • Call the NKF Cares Patient Information Help Line at 855.NKF.CARES (855.653.2273) to learn more.

Get tested for kidney disease early:

  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor for two simple tests, blood and urine, to learn about your kidney function. For many patients, the kidney is a window into the heart and blood vessels. These common tests can indicate heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, a condition that may lead to a faster decline in kidney function.

  • Learn about testing for shared risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease to better understand your risk.

Implement healthy lifestyle choices:

  • A healthy lifestyle can prevent or help to slow the progression of kidney disease when caught in the early stages.

  • Be sure to exercise, eat a healthy diet, lose weight if your doctor advises, avoid smoking, and limit alcohol.https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/minorities-KD