New York, NY—December 3, 2020—Kidney disease is a public health crisis and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is calling on the Biden-Harris Administration to make it a top priority during their first 100 days in office. Affecting 37 million adults in the U.S., kidney disease sits at the intersection of three forces that will shape health care during the new Administration: it is one of the premier examples of low-quality care causing preventable human suffering and enormous spending, it exemplifies the long shadow of racism on public health, and kidney disease patients, especially kidney disease patients of color, continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The majority of kidney disease and kidney failure can be prevented if caught early,” said Kevin Longino, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation and a kidney transplant patient. “Simple, free, or low-cost interventions like lifestyle management, dietary changes, pharmaceutical intervention, and blood pressure and glucose control can prevent the need for dialysis. Despite the possibility of implementing proven population health and health care strategies for improving outcomes, little attention is paid to kidney disease until a patient is dependent on dialysis to survive. That must change.”
In a statement sent to the Biden-Harris Administration earlier this week, NKF outlined four specific recommendations to help solve the nation’s kidney health crisis:
Prioritize kidney patients in your national response to the COVID-19 resurgence.
- Ensure that kidney patients have access to personal protective equipment, can transition to home dialysis where appropriate, access telehealth and other services to minimize their risk of exposure, and have priority access to vaccines and therapeutics.
- Patients on dialysis are at particularly high risk from COVID-19, due to the increased age of the population, numerous underlying comorbidities, community exposure, and the inability of dialysis patients to social distance in the dialysis facility, where patients spend 11 to 12 hours a week in close contact with others.
- According to Medicare’s COVID-19 Data Snapshot, Medicare beneficiaries with ESRD are nearly four times as likely to have contracted COVID-19 as aged or disabled beneficiaries and more than seven times more likely to be hospitalized. Dialysis patients who contract COVID-19 are at extremely high risk of short-term mortality, possibly higher than 20 percent.
Invest in kidney health.
- Our nation’s current federal investment in kidney health is inadequate, especially when compared to the significant financial toll that kidney disease takes on the Medicare program and other federal health programs. Funding for kidney related research has not kept pace with other diseases, and investment in prevention, public awareness and population health is negligible.
- NKF calls on the Biden-Harris Administration to create and fully fund a Special Kidney Disease fund to address gaps in kidney-related research, awareness, innovation, and prevention. A central component of a Special Kidney Disease fund would be to fund research, prevention, and outreach activities aimed at reducing racial and ethnic disparities in kidney care.
- Black or African Americans are almost 4 times more likely and Hispanics or Latinos are 1.3 times more likely to have kidney failure compared to White Americans. Although they make up only 13.5% of the population, Black or African Americans make up more than 35% of dialysis patients.
Promptly implement plans to create an Office of Transplantation within the Department of Health and Human Services.
- The nation’s complex organ transplantation system is siloed, inefficient, and lacks accountability. This inefficiency contributes to the fact that 12 kidney patients die each day awaiting a lifesaving transplant. An Office of Transplantation within the Department of Health and Human Services can better coordinate and align the diverse and competing interests that contribute to the inefficiencies in our current system.
- A specific focus of this office should be to address the significant disparities facing African American or Black and Non-white patients in accessing a transplant.
- In July 2019, the Trump Administration launched the Advancing American Kidney Health initiative (AAKH), a public health initiative focused on improving the lives of Americans suffering from kidney disease, expanding options for patients, and reducing healthcare costs.
- NKF encourages the Biden-Harris Administration to maintain the ESRD Treatment Choices Model (ETC) and the Kidney Care Choices Models, which are designed to slow the progression of kidney disease, expand patient access to home dialysis, and increase kidney transplantation.
- NKF also encourages the new Administration to build on the main pillars of AAKH, and expand the initiative’s focus on public health infrastructure for kidney disease, kidney care disparities, access to kidney transplant, care partner support for home dialysis patients and innovative approaches to treatment kidney failure.
“Kidney disease is actionable and together we can change the trajectory of this disease,” added Longino. “NKF urges the Biden-Harris Administration to implement our recommendations in its first 100 days in office to reduce the burden of kidney disease in the short, medium and long term.”
Kidney Disease Facts
In the United States, 37 million adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease—and approximately 90 percent don’t know they have it. 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are at risk for chronic kidney disease. Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and family history. People of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. Blacks or African Americans are almost 4 times more likely than White Americans to have kidney failure. Hispanics are 1.3 times more likely than non-Hispanics to have kidney failure.
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 www.kidney.org.