World Kidney Day: Why does it matter?

Shivani Sharma Professor of (Health) Equity and Inclusion, Aston University College of Business and Social Sciences Wednesday 13th March 2024 06:47 EDT

Thursday 14 March marked World Kidney Day. An opportunity for communities around the world to think about all thing kidneys. Most people have two kidneys. They are located just below the rib cage, on either side of the spine. These bean shaped organs carry out important functions including acting as a filter system, supporting the removal of waste products and excess fluid from the blood, and making urine. The kidneys also help with the release of hormones that regulate blood pressure.

Our kidneys really are amazing and important to health and wellbeing. That’s why World Kidney Day matters. It’s a call to action to understand more about kidney health, and to work together to prevent or slow down the impact of kidney disease. Ranked as the 8th leading cause of death worldwide, kidney disease affects an estimated 850 million people. In the UK, that’s around 7.2 million people, or over 10% of the population.

Does your background affect your kidney health?

Not everyone has access to suitable education, support, and intervention in the prevention or management of kidney disease. For this reason, the 2024 theme for World Kidney Day is ‘Advancing equitable access to care’.
Data from the UK shows that people of South Asian heritage are 3 to 5 times more likely to be affected by kidney disease. This is often because of the higher occurrence of related conditions that impact kidney health including diabetes and high blood pressure.

In essence, people and their background matters for kidney health including how individual biology interacts with lifestyle and wider social, cultural, and economic factors. For example, more South Asians in England and Wales with kidney disease live in areas of high deprivation compared to people of white heritage. South Asian people are more likely to be impacted at a younger age, and progress faster to ‘kidney replacement therapy’. This is often in the form of dialysis because of issues in access to kidney transplantation.

Generally, people of South Asian heritage wait longer for an organ because of lower rates of donation amongst minority ethnic people. It is more likely that a suitable match will be from someone of the same ethnicity.

Why Asian voices matter

There are several researchers working to understand the needs and preferences of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds to enhance kidney health education and the take up of early detection and reduce barriers to therapies such as transplantation. This requires meaningful ways of engaging with communities to understand experiences and priorities for health and wellbeing. Yet diversity is under-represented in efforts to improve kidney care from prevention to intervention, adding further to health inequities.

World Kidney Day is an opportunity to commit to finding out more about the kidneys and inspiring others to do the same. The campaign website has a range of useful information including 8 golden rules to support kidney health. You might also think about having conversations with others about organ donation, and sharing concerns, information needs, preferences, and wishes. And finally, if you’d like to contribute to kidney research, there are a number of patient advocacy organisations that are a useful starting point to learning about different ways in which South Asian people can make a marked difference to kidney health now and in the future.

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