Human kidneys filter waste and fluid out of the blood and are essential for many bodily processes. Malfunctioning kidneys can cause waste buildup in the body, which can damage nerves, blood vessels, tissues, and other organ systems. Lasting damage to the kidneys, known as chronic kidney disease, is estimated to affect more than 1 in 7, or around 37 million, US adults.
CKD can have major impacts on an individual’s quality of life. Dialysis, a common treatment for CKD, is often confining and inconvenient, as it typically requires patients to be tethered to machines for 9-15 hours each week. Between 2000 and 2019, the number of end-stage kidney disease (kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplantation) cases in the U.S. increased by 41.8%.
People living with chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure are particularly at risk for developing chronic kidney disease. In addition to diabetes and high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and family medical history can also play a part in the development of chronic kidney disease.
Black and African Americans, Hispanic and Latinx Americans, and Native Americans are at higher risk of kidney failure than their white counterparts. Additionally, Black and Hispanic patients tend to present with kidney failure at younger ages than white patients. These disparities are due in part to the disproportionately high rates of diabetes and hypertension in these communities. Higher incidence of diabetes and hypertension in communities of color can be attributed in part to disparities in access to health care and information, among other factors.
Improving kidney health stands to improve society’s overall health and well-being. Efforts to prevent diabetes and hypertension, like improving access to healthy food and opportunities for exercise, can also improve kidney health at scale. At the community level, outreach through existing meetings and channels, like faith-based gatherings or family reunions, can improve awareness and surveillance of kidney health.