By Kevin Longino
CEO of National Kidney Foundation and kidney transplant patient
June 24, 2020
This week three issues are on my mind: the spikes in COVID-19 cases in states reopening and what that means for kidney patients, inequalities that exist within healthcare and what we can do about it, especially during the pandemic, and how the pandemic is affecting children with kidney disease.
Coronavirus spikes are dangerous for kidney patients
Recent tracking reports from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine indicate that many states are currently experiencing spikes in the number of coronavirus cases. New research from Italy reports that chronic kidney disease was present in more than 20% of patients who died from COVID-19. And a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) details the severe toll COVID-19 is taking on kidney patients saying: “End-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients (individuals with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis) had the highest rate of hospitalization among all Medicare beneficiaries, with 1,341 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries. Patients with ESRD are also more likely to have chronic comorbidities associated with increased COVID-19 complications and hospitalization, such as diabetes and heart failure.”
NKF has been sounding this alarm from the very beginning of the pandemic and that is why we’ve been advocating for home dialysis, telehealth, and home lab draws, which are critically important to keeping our patient population safe. Kidney patients cannot relax their use of face masks and other protective gear and must continue to self-isolate as much as possible.
Enacting legislation to address health disparities
If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that addressing health disparities has been a focus and addressing these inequalities will continue to be a critical issue for the National Kidney Foundation moving forward. Recently, two Congressional hearings were held to address the outsized impact COVID-19 has on communities of color: Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color and Health Care Inequality: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 and the Health Care System.In our testimony for both hearings, we outlined the links between kidney disease and COVID-19: a higher incidence of co-morbidities, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity combined with a disadvantaged socioeconomic status contribute to higher COVID-19 mortality. Those same risk factors increase a person’s risk for kidney disease. Nationwide, African Americans represent 12.9% of the population, but have suffered 25.1% of deaths – roughly double their population share.
We urged Congress to enact legislation or work with the Administration to adopt policies that protect kidney patients – especially minority communities – during this public health epidemic. Specifically, we encouraged policymakers to promote testing for kidney disease in these same high-risk communities, provide resources to state and territorial health departments to facilitate concurrent testing of high-risk patients for both COVID-19 and kidney disease, expand access to home dialysis to allow kidney patients to social distance while still maintaining their essential dialysis regimen, ensure patient access to non-emergency medical transportation, extend telehealth waivers and allow patients to receive lab-draws at home. We are also asking the Government to provide funding for a public awareness campaign to better reach these communities given 90% of those affected by kidney disease aren’t yet aware they even have it.
Communities of color, in particular African American and Hispanic communities, are unduly affected by both COVID-19 and kidney disease. To not implement these critical protections puts an unnecessary burden on the communities who have suffered the most.
Pediatric kidney disease and COVID-19
Many parents of children with kidney disease, especially those with a transplant, are worried about how the reopening of states and returning to school this Fall will affect their child. Today, June 25th, we’re hosting a live Q&A webinar session at 2PM ET/11AM PT to address these concerns and help parents understand what to do. Join us for this live event, Pediatric Kidney Disease and COVID-19.
If the past few months of dealing with a pandemic has taught us anything it’s that when we work together as a community, state and nation we are stronger together. We collectively helped flatten the curve and we need to take that same zeal forward as the summer months lure us into forgetfulness about the need to continue social distancing and taking other necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.
Please continue to check our COVID-19 resource page where we post all the latest information on issues facing our community in English and in Spanish. If you have questions or need support, please contact our toll free patient information help line by calling (855) NKF-CARES, (1-855-653-2273) or by email email@example.com. And join our free online discussion forums.
Be well and stay safe.