NIH Encourages Blacks To Discuss Kidney Disease At Church & Family Reunions

A multi-generational family posing near a Christmas tree( – -The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has developed two initiatives that encourage African Americans to talk about kidney health and the importance of getting tested. One initiative is designed for family reunions and another for use in places of worship—both are offered free through the National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP).

As African Americans across the country prepare for family reunions this summer, NIH is encouraging them to bring “health to the table” by alerting family members about their risks for kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects more than 20 million adults in the U.S. In 2007, almost 111,000 people began treatment for the most advanced stage of the disease, kidney failure – treatment that is either transplant or dialysis.

Kidney failure affects African Americans more than other groups. In fact, African Americans make up about 12 percent of the population but account for 28 percent of new cases of kidney failure. In addition, almost 80 percent of kidney failure cases among African Americans are caused by diabetes and high blood pressure. Family history also is a risk factor.

To help families talk about kidney disease, NKDEP has created the free Family Reunion Health Guide containing everything needed to share important kidney health information at reunions. The Guide includes simple tips for conducting a 15-minute Make the Kidney Connection health discussion, identifying and talking with family members at risk, and distributing kidney disease prevention information to attendees.

In addition, increasingly, people are turning to places of worship to get accurate, useful information about issues that uniquely affect African Americans. NKDEP’s Kidney Sundays initiative is a great opportunity to raise awareness within faith communities about the risks for kidney disease and the importance of getting tested. The Kidney Sundays Toolkit provides faith-based organizations with the tools and materials they need to include kidney health messages in programs and events. The materials are easy to use in a wide variety of settings with any organization. In fact, they can be used by anyone who wants to have a conversation about kidney disease with their friends, family, co-workers, or community group outside of a faith-based setting.

“Many people have family members with diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney disease. Our goal is to make them aware of their risk for kidney disease and to encourage them to get tested and take steps to protect their kidneys,” says Dr. Andrew Narva, director of NKDEP.

Because diabetes and high blood pressure run in families, reunions offer good opportunities to discuss kidney disease.

“Most people with kidney disease have no symptoms.” said Dr. Narva. “If you don’t know you have kidney disease you can’t protect yourself. But there is good news. Once diagnosed, kidney disease can be treated, and kidney failure may be delayed or prevented.”

For more information and to download the Family Reunion Health Guide or the Kidney Sundays Toolkit, visit Other brochures and educational materials also are available.

The National Kidney Disease Education Program is an initiative of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health.