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MPs encouraged to get their kidneys checked

Media Release –March 6, 2008

MPs encouraged to get their kidneys checked

MPs are set to receive a health check at the Beehive this week, as New Zealand joins with more than 60 countries around the globe to mark World Kidney Day.

The event, which takes place on March 13, is being marked in more than 60 countries and aims to spread the message that chronic kidney disease (CKD) is common, harmful and treatable.

In the lead up to World Kidney Day, all New Zealand’s 121 MPs will today (March 6) receive a simple urine testing kit from Kidney Health New Zealand (formerly the New Zealand Kidney Foundation).

KHNZ hopes by getting MPs to take the test – which is in the form of a dip-stick – they will show the country’s parliamentarians just how important, and simple, it is to get tested, and gain support for a targeted screening programme to be introduced in New Zealand.

Kidney disease affects more than 500 million individuals, one in 10 adults, worldwide.

It is believed more than 190,000 people in New Zealand have serious kidney disease, with many thousands more affected by less serious kidney problems.

Early diagnosis is very important to provide an opportunity for treatment to prevent more serious disease. However, one of the problems with CKD is that the majority of patients, up to 90%, do not get symptoms until the disease is well advanced, and at this stage preparation for dialysis and transplantation may be the only treatment option.

In New Zealand today around 2000 people are on dialysis, and about 1200 are alive with a transplant.

“We need to educate people as to who is at the greatest risk of kidney disease,” says Professor Kelvin Lynn, Medical Director of KHNZ.

“There are times when if you wait until you are ill, it can be too late. Kidney disease is one of these.”

Despite the fact there are two simple and inexpensive tests – blood pressure and urine protein checks - available to detect CKD, developing a whole-population screening programme would be hugely expensive and unlikely to prove cost-effective.

One of the aims of World Kidney Day, a joint initiative between the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF) and the International Society of Nephrology (ISN), is to promote a targeted screening programme.

“We believe a structured programme delivered in primary care which targets those at the most risk is our best way to cope with what is a growing problem in New Zealand,” says Professor Lynn.

Individuals who are at the greatest risk of developing kidney disease include both Maori and Pacific Islanders, those aged over 50, those who smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes, and those with a family history of kidney disease.

In addition to supplying each MP with a urine test kit to check for kidney disease, staff from Wellington Hospital’s renal unit will be in the Beehive on World Kidney Day (Thursday, March 13) to perform blood pressure checks for any MPs or members of staff who want them. The hospital staff will also provide advice on maintaining kidney health.

The event is just one of a number of initiatives going on around the country to mark World Kidney Day, and will follow on from a lunch at Parliament on Wednesday (March 12) where Professor Lynn will address MPs and health professionals on chronic kidney disease, in addition to launching Kidney Health New Zealand’s new name.

“The Foundation has supported, and advocated for, individuals living with kidney disease since 1979,” says Professor Lynn, a Christchurch nephrologist.

“This will never change. However, we recently decided to change our name to Kidney Health New Zealand to more accurately reflect the greater emphasis we are now placing on prevention. This includes an increasing amount of community education and screening of people who are at greater risk.

“Chronic diseases, like kidney disease, place a huge burden on patients, friends and family, and health systems around the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and Kidney Health New Zealand is committed to working hard to cut the number of patients who are ending up in our hospitals with end-stage renal disease. It really is the only way we will ever cope with what is a growing problem in our communities.”


The Amazing Kidney – the facts

* Surveys carried out before the first World Kidney Day showed that as few as 5% of people knew where there kidneys were located in their bodies.

* Despite this lack of knowledge, the kidneys do an amazing job.

* Our kidneys are roughly the size of two fists and are located deep in the abdomen, beneath the rib cage.

* Their main job is to remove toxins and excess water from our blood.

* Everyday our kidneys filter and clean 200 litres of blood – enough to fill 20 buckets.

* In addition to this feat, the kidneys help to control our blood pressure, produce red blood cells and to keep our bones healthy.


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