National NIH Initiative Aims to Reduce Kidney Failure Among African Americans
The National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP) today began
its first national effort to call attention to the seriousness of
kidney disease and the importance of testing those at high risk,
particularly African Americans, a group hit especially hard.
Kidney disease has no warning signs in its early stages and many
of those at high risk do not know it. But its impact is clear. Twenty
million people have kidney disease. The number of people already
on dialysis or with a kidney transplant because their kidneys failed
has doubled each decade for the past two decades. Nearly half a
million people now have kidney failure a number expected to surpass
660,000 by 2010. In addition to the human toll, the annual cost
of treating patients with kidney failure in the United States is
more than $20 billion.
The impact of kidney disease is disproportionate among African
Americans. They are four times more likely than Caucasians to develop
kidney failure. And while African Americans make up just 12 percent
of the population, they account for 30 percent of people with kidney
failure. A significant disparity is found among African American
men ages 22 to 44, who are 20-times more likely to develop kidney
failure from hypertension compared to their Caucasian counterparts.
"It's critical that we get in front of this growing epidemic.
People's lives don't have to be devastated by kidney failure,"
says Thomas Hostetter, M.D., director of NKDEP, which is an initiative
of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "We want people
at high risk for kidney disease, particularly African Americans,
to know they are at risk and that they can do something about it."
That's the aim of NKDEP's You Have The Power To Prevent Kidney
Disease campaign. It stresses three key messages: 1) know if
you are at risk, 2) have your kidneys tested if you are at risk,
and 3) kidney failure can be slowed or prevented if kidney disease
is detected early.
To help spread the word, NKDEP is working with African American
consumer and civic groups to communicate kidney disease information
to their members and within their communities. This summer, the
campaign also will have a presence at several major events that
target African Americans. Planning is underway to expand NKDEP's
outreach to other high-risk populations.
The first NIH study to assess African Americans' knowledge and
awareness about kidney disease shows that many are unaware of their
high risk and of preventive measures. Conducted among 2,000 African
Americans in April 2003, the study found that although 44 percent
of respondents had at least one major kidney disease risk factor diabetes,
high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure only 15
percent felt their personal risk for developing the disease was
higher than average.
In addition, only 17 percent named kidney disease as a consequence
of diabetes and only 8 percent named it as a consequence of high
blood pressure. These two diseases are the leading causes of kidney
failure in the United States, accounting for more than 70 percent
of cases among adults, according to the U.S. Renal Data System.
"People just don't make the connection between their diabetes
or high blood pressure and kidney disease," says Dr. Hostetter.
"Most people can reduce their risk of developing kidney failure
by managing high blood pressure and diabetes. It is also important
for those at risk, individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure
or a family history of kidney failure, to get tested for kidney
The good news is that if kidney disease is detected early, medication
is available to help slow its progression or prevent kidney failure NKDEP's
This national effort builds upon pilot education campaigns conducted
in Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland and Jackson, Miss., over the past
year. More than 30 public agencies and private organizations were
involved in the pilot program's development and are supporting the
program's national implementation.
For more information about kidney disease or the You Have The
Power To Prevent Kidney Disease campaign, visit www.nkdep.nih.gov
or call 1-866-4-KIDNEY.