Focus on kidney health
In The Bahamas, kidney diseases accounted for 30.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2019, according to a Pan American Health Organization report.
This risk of mortality (60 to 80 percent) puts The Bahamas in fourth quintile of all countries, based on information provided in the “Burden of Kidney Diseases in the Region of the Americas, 2000-2019” report.
“Kidney diseases are ranked as the eighth cause of mortality, the 10th cause of years of life lost, and the 10th cause of disability-adjusted life years in both sexes combined, and one of the causes with the highest rate of increase in the region,” according to the report.
Globally, an average of 10 to 13 percent of the adult population is battling chronic kidney disease (CKD). However, local statistics are much harder to come by.
Bahamas Kidney Association (BKA) President Tamika Roberts said that needs to change.
“It is a concern that we have discussed with the ministry and minister of health and we are looking to partner with them in the near future to get better statistics locally,” she said.
“We note that the statistics worldwide is high and we believe that the local statistics will mirror the same.
“Our role is to bring awareness to the disease to reduce the instances of kidney disease.
“We usually give out about 300 care packages every year for kidney patients. That number is just a fraction of the patient population and it’s localized to New Providence, so you can imagine this is a growing problem. We believe that with our efforts to bring awareness, we can help to reduce the number.”
With March being kidney month, there is heightened focus on bringing awareness to kidney health and encouraging people to support kidney disease research, and for people to take steps to keep their own kidneys safe and healthy.
“We would like Bahamians to be more aware of the disease, its signs and how to help those suffering from the disease,” Roberts continued.
“The theme for kidney month is ‘Kidney health for all: Preparing for the unexpected, supporting the vulnerable’. That theme encompasses what we would like Bahamians to get from the month. Our work is all about helping Bahamians learn the signs of kidney disease and prevent the disease. Our work also supports those currently suffering from the disease.”
The most common causes of CKD include diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), inflammatory disease of the kidneys and cystic kidney disease.
Global statistics show that many people have kidney disease, but are unaware.
Roberts underscored the importance of prioritizing your health.
“Some of the symptoms that people should look out for include change in urine color, fatigue, swelling in your body, and loss of appetite,” she said.
“If they are experiencing any of these signs, or any other discomfort, please see a healthcare provider and make your health a priority.”
Nephrologist Dr. Adrian Sawyer said, “Diabetic kidney disease accounts for the largest single category of CKD/end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) worldwide.
“In the USA, approximately 46 percent of the patients on dialysis, or transplant, have diabetes as the primary cause of kidney failure. In Europe, the figure averages to 20 percent. The last time data was analyzed for The Bahamas, the figure was 38 percent.
“Hypertension accounts for approximately 20 to 25 percent of causes of CKD/ESRD. One in four adults have hypertension and increases to two in four with aging. Hypertension damages kidneys via damage to the small blood vessels in the kidney. At the commencement of Stage 5 CKD, of whatever cause, approximately 85 to 90 percent of patients have hypertension.
“Inflammatory disease of the kidneys – damage related to inflammation in anatomical compartments of the kidney – are the next leading cause of CKD/ESKD.”
Sawyer also addressed the high costs associated with care for those with kidney diseases.
Roberts said the association does what it can to ease the burden and provide support.
“We provide monthly educational sessions for kidney patients and we have a medication assistance program where we offer free Nephrovite and Calcium Carbonate (Tums) for enrolled patients,” she said.
“The pilot phase of our medication assistance program was rolled out September 2022. We had 30 patients who benefitted from the program. And with your donation, we would like to increase that number this year.”
Over the weekend, BKA donated 300 care packages to kidney patients.
The bags contained masks, sanitizing wipes, tums, a card of encouragement and other items to uplift the spirit of kidney patients.
Roberts said, “This is important for them to know that they are not forgotten. We want them to know that their concerns are heard and the BKA is advocating on their behalf; that they are not on this journey alone. We care and they matter like everyone else.”
The team visited Renal Med & Associates, The Kidney Clinic, Renal House, PMH Dialysis Unit and Dialysis Centre Bahamas to make the donation.
As kidney month continues, the next major awareness event is a fun run and walk on Saturday, March 18 at 6:00 a.m.
A health expo will follow and will feature medical institutions like Cleveland Clinic, Baptist Health, Oaktree Medical and The Walk-In Clinic. Other vendors include Colina, Commonwealth Brewery, Nassau Agencies, and NHI.