Compared to whites, kidney failure is 3.7 times higher among African Americans age 30-39 and 40-49, 4.0 times higher for those 50-59, and 4.8 times higher for those age 20-29, according to 2009 data from the U.S. Renal Data System. Black Americans make up 13 percent of the country’s population, but 40 percent of those on dialysis and a third of patients waiting for a kidney transplant.
So taking care of one’s health to prevent kidney disease and recognizing the signs of potential problems are crucial.
According to the American Kidney Fund (www.kidneyfund.org), you should check for kidney damage or disease if:
• You have high blood pressure
• You have blood and/or protein in the urine
• You have a creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogren (BUN) blood test result outside of the normal range
• You have a GFR (glomecular filtration rate), which measures kidney function, lower than 60.
• You have more frequent or painful urination
• You have puffiness around the eyes and swelling of the hands and feet
Dr. Charles Modlin, one of the nation’s top black transplant surgeons and urologists, as well as a co-founder and director of the Cleveland Clinic Minority Men’s Health Center, says his goal is to close the gap in strong health outcomes for black Americans, especially black men.
The clinic is offering free health screenings and information for more than 3,000 underserved black men at its 10th annual Minority Men’s Health Fair on April 26 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
“We’re just trying to find some solutions to reduce — to eliminate — health care disparities,” Modlin told the Cleveland Plain Dealer before last year’s health fair. “Obviously access to health care is a big predisposing factor to disparities. If you don’t have access to quality health care, then your outcomes are not going to be as good.”
Organ transplants are an important option in the treatment of those with kidney disease and studies show transplants are more likely to succeed between those with genetic matches or from the same racial or ethnic group.
Historically, the problem has been especially acute for African-Americans, who for generations were less likely to donate organs or sign up for registries although they were three times more likely than whites to develop kidney disease and made up a third of those on waiting lists for kidney transplants.
Fortunately, that trend appears to be diminishing.
A study led by Dr. Clive Callender, a transplant surgeon at Howard University and founder of the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) revealed that people of color in the U.S. who have become organ donors has increased significantly over the past 20 years.
Data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) showed that between 1990 and 2008, minority donation percentages in the U.S. doubled, from 15 percent of donations to 30 percent.
The rate of African-American donors more than doubled during those same years — from 22 donors per 1 million, to 53 per million. Meanwhile, the rates among Hispanics rose from 23 to 50 per million, and those of Asians climbed from 10 per million to 35 per million.
For those in financial need, the American Kidney Fund provides direct financial support to patients in need, health education and prevention efforts. It leads the nation in charitable assistance to dialysis patients and provides public awareness campaigns, free health screenings, health education materials and courses, online outreach, and provides a toll-free health information Help Line (866-300-2900).
Last year, 1,200 men attended and underwent nearly 6,000 screenings at the Cleveland Clinic. In addition to information on kidney disease, hundreds of men found out they had sleep apnea, sexually transmitted diseases, glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses and were able to seek follow-up treatment.