Healthy kidney health can be ensured in The Bahamas through preventative measures like lifestyle modifications and early detection, combined with individualized treatment plans using precision medicine and technological advances, which could help tip the scale toward improved kidney health outcomes by balancing both sides posited Otis Rolle, to win the Bahamas Kidney Association’s (BKA) kidney awareness essay competition.
Otis, a student at Jordan Prince William Baptist School, tackled the topic “Kidney Health in the Future: Challenges and Possibilities”. He earned a laptop, tablet and cellphone for his winning contribution.
The topic allowed students the chance to explore solutions and opportunities for kidney health in the future.
He wrote, “Controlling the issues and opportunities is necessary to keep the obstacles from outweighing the opportunities and guaranteeing a better future for kidney health in The Bahamas.”
Otis wrote that kidney health and function are critical to overall health and well-being as kidneys filter waste and surplus fluids from the blood, maintain electrolyte balance, and produce hormones that help regulate blood pressure and red blood cell development.
“The role the kidneys – the two bean-like fist-shaped organs play is surely major. Sadly, chronic kidney disease and other kidney diseases are a developing public health hazard that affect hundreds of Bahamians across the country. In this setting, it is critical to comprehend future problems and opportunities for renal health.”
He said the state of kidney health and the possibilities for the future can be compared to a balance scale, with opportunities and difficulties on opposite sides.
“The potential for the future and the current health concerns are inextricably linked. As science and technology continue to improve, we are better prepared to address some of the most important health issues that the human race is currently experiencing. But there are also fresh, emergent health issues and circumstances that call for fresh strategies and fixes.”
He wrote that while hundreds of Bahamian households are affected by chronic renal disease, the danger is the people who have not been diagnosed.
“Although the magnitude of the impact is even greater on a global scale, it has a significant impact on our small archipelago, which spans 500 miles from Grand Bahama in the northwest to Inagua in the southeast. The economic expenses of kidney replacement therapy, dialysis, or kidney transplantation are now disproportionately high in relation to the number of people affected, posing issues for our health system and the nation’s well-being.”
Otis said challenges impeding good kidney health include a constantly aging population, high prevalence of diabetes and hypertension, lack of existing treatment options, poor eating habits/obesity, and the unawareness of kidney health disease by the general public.
“The present health concerns and the potential future developments are closely related,” he said. “For starters, The Bahamas’ population is aging, and the prevalence of chronic renal disease is predicted to rise. Because of co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, the aged population is at a higher risk of developing renal disease. Even though our island nation’s population has been increasing since at least since 2010, demographic data shows The Bahamas’ population is aging, as the number of inhabitants in the age range above 65 years increased continuously over the last decade.
“Diabetes and hypertension are two of the most common causes of renal damage. With The Bahamas having the highest prevalence of diabetes and hypertension in the world there is no surprise that kidney disease is plaguing our nation leading to kidney diseases accounting for 30.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2019 according to a Pan American Health Organization report.”
Citing Bahamian Nephrologist Dr. Adrian Sawyer, Otis said diabetes is the biggest cause of kidney failure, which means some people have to receive dialysis several times a week.
Existing chronic kidney disease (CKD) treatment choices he said are limited, and the disease frequently advances to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which necessitates dialysis or kidney transplantation. Treatments that he said are costly and may be difficult to obtain for the majority of Bahamians.
“There are several treatments available for kidney disease, but their effectiveness depends on the stage and cause of the disease. In advanced stages of kidney disease, when the kidneys have lost most of their function, the only options may be dialysis or a kidney transplant. However, in earlier stages of kidney disease, there are several treatment options available to slow down the progression of the disease and manage symptoms but many persons are unaware of kidney disease until it becomes life-threatening.”
Otis wrote that poor eating and obesity can impede the future of kidney health.
“According to studies done 41.0 percent of adult women (aged 18 years and over) and 27.4 percent of adult men live with obesity in The Bahamas.”
He said the Bahamian diet – high in starch and meat, and low in greens and vegetables – is killing its people.
“Obesity and poor eating habits can lead to a swarm of issues that worsen kidney health. Obesity can increase the amount of protein in the urine, which is a sign of kidney damage. Leading to changes in the structure of the kidneys, inflammation, and scarring.”
Otis said people who are obese are more likely to have sleep apnea, a condition where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep which in turn can lead to the release of hormones that can damage the kidneys. He said obesity can also increase the risk of developing kidney stones, which can cause significant pain and damage to the kidneys. And that even though CKD is a common condition, the general public is unaware of it.
He wrote that early detection and care of kidney disease can prevent or delay the progression to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) but unfortunately, that many do not realize it until it is too late.
Despite obstacles that appear overwhelming, Otis wrote that there is hope.
“In ancient Egyptian mythology, it was believed that after death, the soul of the deceased would be judged by weighing their heart against a feather. If the heart was lighter than a feather, the soul would be able to proceed to the afterlife, but if the heart was heavy, it would be devoured by a monster and the soul would be condemned to an eternal afterlife of suffering. Similarly, The Bahamas’ future can be compared to a feather, if heavier resulting in a plethora of misery and if lighter resulting in a bright and pleasant future. It is this balance that will determine our destiny, thus what a coincidence that our very own kidney is in charge of balancing our bodies.”
Doris Johnson Senior High School student Alicia Wilchcombe was second.
Nerly Soutien, a student at R.M. Bailey Senior High School was third.
Kendrick Ferguson of International School of Business Entrepreneur & Technology (ISBET) was recognized for his participation. He received a cellphone.
Tamika Roberts, BKA president said they hosted the essay competition to help the next generation understand the importance of kidney health and the steps to prevent kidney disease.