More than 1 in 7 individuals in the United States are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 90 percent of this population do not know that they are living with CKD.
To raise awareness and shed a light on the importance of education for the kidney community, the Northwest Kidney Council invited elected officials and patients to learn from experts at organizations including the American Diabetes Association, Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus, Dialysis Patient Citizens, the American Kidney Fund, Donate Life Northwest, Fresenius Medical Care and DaVita. Read on to learn about three important takeaways from the summit.
1. COVID-19 has put a heavy burden on kidney patients and access to care
Patients with CKD are immunocompromised, placing them within the high-risk category during the coronavirus pandemic. Many CKD patients work within the service industry, which was largely shutdown and led to unprecedented job losses. The American Kidney Fund created a Coronavirus Emergency Fund to provide $250 grants to patients who may need additional support for food, medicine or transportation during this time.
“We had to shift our entire lives. We literally had to rebuild from ground zero,” a patient told the American Kidney Fund.
While patients have been able to dialyze regularly, doctor’s appointments, routine check-ups and preventative care have all decreased, according the American Diabetes Association. Non urgent and elective procedures were largely cancelled during the initial stages of the pandemic, which may have delayed diagnoses for some living with CKD or led to poorer outcomes.
2. Prevention and educational programming leads to healthier outcomes
It’s common for people to crash into kidney disease – they didn’t know it was coming. Educational programs, like Kidney Smart, can help educate patients and care partners on kidney disease, lifestyle changes and treatment options. Not only does this help the patient and their family feel more informed, but it leads to reductions in missed treatments and hospitalizations, according to a study conducted by DaVita.
Donate Life Northwest approaches education in a different way. As the leading organization helping support patients who are waiting for an organ transplant, the Donate Life communicates the benefits of deceased and living donation to the larger public. In the instance of living organ donation, not only does a living donor decrease the wait time for a patient on the list, but a kidney from a living donor lasts twice as long as one from a deceased donor.
3. Health equity is a focus for many patient organizations
Black, Indigenous and People of Color have historically been underserved by our health care system. Together, many local organizations are looking at social determinants of health and finding ways to meet people’s needs within their community. Elected officials are eager to support this work and will be looking at policies that help collect data and propose solutions that increase access for all who need access to health care.