Bridging the Knowledge Gap to Better Kidney Care

Article by Dr. Veerabhadra Guptha, Consultant – Nephrologist, Aster RV Hospital

CKD (CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE) is one of the major non communicable diseases in India. World Kidney Day is held on the second Thursday of March every year in order to raise awareness on kidney disease, its prevention and the diagnosis and treatment gaps associated with it. About 90% of people do not know about Chronic Kidney Disease despite the prevalence rates being quite high and sadly a lot of patients are not even aware about where the kidneys are located and what functions they hold! According to reports, 1 in every 10 adults gets affected by CKD.

Another alarming fact is that deaths caused by CKD have increased by 30% in the last few decades alone. There are several factors that contribute to this rise. Under diagnosis of kidney issues and detection of disease at a late stage also leaves susceptible patients at a dire risk of suffering from cardiovascular related episodes such as heart failure, heart attack, stroke, poor or declining quality of life, and the risk of suffering from possible kidney failure and death also comes into the picture. Lack of awareness about kidney issues, ignorance of symptoms and lack of sufficient knowledge about early screenings are the biggest challenges that have contributed to the increase in kidney disease.

In order to change this reality, we need to improve the awareness and quality of CKD screening. Through government and private initiatives, there needs to be an improved way of connecting with patients and family members, provision of incentives so that people take kidney screening and diagnosis more seriously, increased access to medicine, quality technology and latest and scientifically established therapies, to stop kidney disease. The focus must be on primary and secondary prevention.

This gap area in knowledge exists among several stakeholders that form a part of the field. Starting from kidney patients, to their care-givers, to those who govern policy and healthcare initiatives within the health sector. In order to address this gap, the theme for World Kidney Day this year has been kept as – Bridge the Knowledge Gap to Better Kidney Care’.

On this day, it is important that we look to improve the health literacy of people with respect to kidney disease in India. Health literacy can be defined as the extent to which society has the capability to source, understand and apply information and amenities to make properly informed health related choices for themselves and for others.

We should take the occasion of World Kidney Day today to –

  • Spread awareness, motivate society to practice healthy living, to control their diet and lifestyle to preserve their kidney health and prevent the formation of kidney disease, to encourage people with kidney disease to extend health and function of the kidneys and to improve societal awareness about the role and significance of our kidneys

  • We must also elaborate on the need for people to have access to clean and pure water, encourage people to exercise, eliminate or at least control poor habits such as tobacco and alcohol usage and control climate change

  • We must empower kidney patients by furthering research, equip patients with practical and useful education that teaches them on the importance of good food and lifestyle habits, educate care-givers as well as society at large on supporting kidney patients, enabling them to achieve positive health outcomes and their life goals, especially among those who have suffered kidney failure

  • Every patient and their family must receive access to accurate health information pertaining to their disease and concurrently, healthcare providers and patient centric organisations should actively work towards improving CKD awareness and improving health literacy

  • The first line of care through primary care workers must be enhanced by improving identification and management of kidney diseases, right from prevention and early detection, to knowing the right kind of referral and management systems during secondary, tertiary and end-stage care

  • Simultaneously, CKD and prevention of kidney failure must be incorporated into national health awareness programs and developing a comprehensive and integrated healthcare services will play a key role in the early identification and mapping of kidney care across the nation

  • Those in power with the ability to influence policy must be educated about the effects of kidney disease and the subsequent burden on patients and healthcare providers in order to encourage more focus on policies and utilise resources to address the growing burden of kidney disease.

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