| African Americans Unaware of High Kidney Disease
Although kidney failure and its leading causes disproportionately
affect African Americans, they are largely unaware of their high
risk and of preventive measures, according to the first NIH study
to assess the group's knowledge and awareness about kidney disease.
While 90 percent of African Americans surveyed by the National
Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP) had heard about kidney
disease, only 15 percent felt their personal risk for developing
the disease was higher than average and fewer knew specifically
how to prevent it. This gap in awareness raises serious concern,
especially because 44 percent of them had at least one major risk
factor for kidney disease diabetes, high blood pressure or a blood
relative with the disease. In addition, only 17 percent named kidney
disease as a consequence of diabetes and only 8 percent named it
as a consequence of hypertension. These two diseases are the leading
causes of kidney failure in the United States and account for 70
percent of kidney failure among African Americans.
"We clearly need to work closely within our community to provide
the facts about kidney disease," said Janice Lea, M.D., spokesperson
for Atlanta's NKDEP coalition. "One step we are taking is asking
dialysis patients to encourage relatives and friends who are at
high risk to take the disease seriously and be tested while they
can still do something about it."
The poll also found that 52 percent of people knew at least one
major cause of kidney disease, but 48 percent were unable to name
any cause and others named incorrect causes such as drinking sodas.
When asked about symptoms of early kidney disease, 13 percent correctly
said that there are none, while 64 percent expected early symptoms
to include difficulty urinating, general pain and frequent urination.
"Kidney disease is a silent killer. People find themselves
in the emergency room, on dialysis, before they even know they have
a problem," said Dr. Lea. "That's why it is so important
to control diabetes and high blood pressure and have your blood
and urine regularly tested for kidney disease once you know you
are at risk."
While anyone can develop kidney disease, African Americans are
hit especially hard. An estimated 36 in 100,000 African Americans
versus 11 in 100,000 Whites were treated for kidney failure in 2001.
African Americans have four times the risk of kidney failure and
those with diabetes have up to six times the risk compared to White
counterparts. But the biggest disparity is among African American
men ages 25 to 44, who are 20 times more likely to develop kidney
failure compared to corresponding Whites.
Epidemic numbers of people roughly 20 million have kidney disease
and another 400,000 or more are already on dialysis or have a kidney
transplant because their kidneys failed. The cost to taxpayers,
insurers, and patients was an estimated $22.8 billion in 2001 alone.
NKDEP polled more than 2,000 African Americans aged 30 and older
living in Atlanta; Baltimore; Cleveland; and Jackson, Mississippi,
in April 2003, shortly before local coalitions launched
a year-long pilot program, "You Have the Power to Prevent
Kidney Disease." The study will be repeated in May to measure
changes in knowledge and awareness.
"Seeing an increased awareness in our pilot cities would be
a good indication that the program is working," said Thomas
H. Hostetter, M.D., a kidney specialist and national director of
NKDEP. "What we learn will help us fine-tune the program, but
we definitely plan to expand it nationally and to other people at
high risk. We think all segments of the population, not only African
Americans, are largely unaware of the risks."
NKDEP is sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services. The goal of NKDEP is to prevent kidney
failure. The program's 30 partners include both public agencies
and private organizations.
Visit NKDEP on the web at www.nkdep.nih.gov.
Learn more about kidney disease at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/a-z.asp#K.