“Whereas, by calling attention to the importance of education and patient self-empowerment with regard to chronic kidney disease, the quality and availability of such information and services can be improved,” states an official proclamation issued by Gov. Jay Inslee declaring March 2022 Kidney Disease Awareness Month in Washington.
It is important to continue working toward better outcomes for the kidney community across the state and we need leaders throughout the community to follow Gov. Inslee’s lead and heed this call to action.
According to the American Kidney Fund, as of 2021, more than 13,000 Washingtonians are living with end stage renal disease (ESRD), which requires dialysis or a transplant to survive – and only one in three Washington residents on the waiting list received a kidney transplant in 2020. Those numbers reflect national trends.
At its core, kidney advocacy is an equity issue. Kidney disease is proven to be more prevalent in the Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American communities. Black Americans are 3.4 times more likely than whites to develop kidney failure, and Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanics to develop kidney failure.
The problem is, 9 out of 10 people do not know they have early kidney disease because it usually does not present symptoms until the late stages and the symptoms mirror those of many other chronic conditions.
That is why it is critical for organizations like the Northwest Kidney Council, in collaboration with our partners across the state – whether nonprofits, providers, researchers, or legislators – to continue spreading awareness long after National Kidney Month ends.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommend that if you have diabetes, get checked every year. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, talk with your health care provider about how often you should get tested. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help protect your kidneys.
There is also more work to be done at the state level.
The Washington Legislature debated bills this year to improve the credentialing process for medical assistant hemodialysis technicians, hoping to meet Washington’s health care workforce demand, and to allow emergency vehicles to use lights and sirens when transporting organs, a critical tool to improve patient outcomes. However, both fell short of the finish line when the Legislature adjourned on March 10 despite broad support from Washington’s kidney health community.
Legislators did, however, pass a bill that will allow dialysis centers to sell dialysate products for home dialysis, improving access to care for patients across the state that are able to utilize that method of treatment.
The lack of progress on common sense solutions to the very significant issues facing kidney patients right now is troubling, but not discouraging. We are inspired and energized to keep the momentum going, and in the next legislative session, we will continue our work alongside our partners to pass these and other important bills that improve access to care and better outcomes for kidney patients in Washington.
Looking ahead, after the fanfare of National Kidney Month dies down, these conversations become even more important. We hope you will join us.