Debbie Allen, National Kidney Foundation Team-Up to Push for Early Diagnosis of Kidney Disease

Award-winning actress and NKF’s chief medical officer take their message directly to the American Academy of Family Physicians

Sept. 30, 2021, New York, NY — Family doctors and primary care practices need to ramp up kidney disease testing, using both a blood and urine test because millions of adults are walking around with the dangerous disease but don’t know it, a message the National Kidney Foundation’s Chief Medical Officer and Debbie Allen will share with thousands of physicians at a conference today.

Nephrologist Joseph Vassalotti, MD, who serves in the top medical post at the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), will make the remarks at the annual conference of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) at their “Family Medicine Experience” presentation. He will be joined by award-winning actress, Debbie Allen, who is a spokeswoman for the “Are You the 33%?®” campaign to raise awareness about the risks associated with developing kidney disease as part of an initiative sponsored by Bayer. 

“Because chronic kidney disease (CKD) is progressive, early testing and screening—even before referral to nephrology—is the best step to preserving kidney function and quality of life,” Dr. Vassalotti said. “Primary care professionals like family physicians have a critical role in making sure patients at risk are properly tested so they can get the diagnosis and treatment they need early in the disease.”

To screen for kidney disease, patients need measures of both estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) through a blood test and urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio (uACR). The eGFR testing measures creatinine levels in the blood to determine kidney function and the eGFR test is commonly included in blood test panels given during annual physicals. However, the uACR is more specialized and is typically only ordered when a physician suspects kidney damage. The uACR test measures the amount of albumin protein present in urine. The eGFR alone is insufficient to diagnose and risk-stratify chronic kidney disease.

“Despite all my years of dancing and being careful about my diet to reduce my chance of getting type 2 diabetes, I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes. From my dad, grandfather, aunts and uncle, this disease has shaped my family, so I know it puts me at an increased risk for chronic kidney disease,” Ms. Allen said. “After learning of my diagnosis, I wanted to do my part to help others with clear, actionable steps. Too few people know that living with type 2 diabetes can lead to chronic kidney disease and life-threatening complications.”

NKF is not only working to raise awareness among physicians about the importance of early diagnosis of the disease, but also to empower adults in America to speak to their doctors about their risks, especially those adults at higher risk. Ms. Allen is part of the campaign to inspire people with Type 2 diabetes to learn more about their increased risk of kidney disease and how to speak to their family doctors about it. NKF offers a free online quiz to anyone at to learn about risk.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to speak with clinicians, who are on the frontline of kidney care,” Dr. Vassalotti said. “If chronic kidney disease is discovered early, lifestyle and pharmacologic interventions can be effective. But, if chronic kidney disease is not discovered until kidney function is severely impaired, management becomes much more challenging. We are excited to partner with family physicians to better understand their workflow that will help us incorporate kidney health assessment into diabetes care.”

To learn more about the "Are You the 33%?" campaign, visit and join in the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #MinuteForYourKidneys. 

Kidney Disease Facts

In the United States, 37 million adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD)—and approximately 90 percent don’t know they have it.  1 in 3 adults in the U.S. is at risk for chronic kidney disease.  Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and family history. People who are Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander are at increased risk for developing the disease. Black or African American people are almost 4 times more likely than Whites to have kidney failure. Hispanic or Latino people are 1.3 times more likely than non-Hispanic or non-Latino people to have kidney failure. Approximately 785,000 Americans have irreversible kidney failure and need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. More than 555,000 of these patients receive dialysis to replace kidney function and 230,000 live with a transplant. Nearly 100,000 Americans are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant right now.  Depending on where a patient lives, the average wait time for a kidney transplant can be upwards of three to seven years.

About the National Kidney Foundation

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the largest, most comprehensive, and longstanding patient-centric organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease in the U.S. For more information about NKF, visit