Report reveals disparities in kidney health across the UK Rosie Loft
This week Kidney Research UK published a report into kidney health inequalities in the UK, which shows how particular groups of people are at greater risk of developing kidney disease. It explains that these groups face worse outcomes from kidney disease and sets out the research needed to address these challenges.
The report, launched at an event in the House of Commons, has found that social deprivation, ethnicity, gender, age, geography and mental health all have a part to play. For example:
- people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to progress faster towards kidney failure
- people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to have chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- younger people often start treatment for kidney failure at a later stage of their disease
men are more likely to start dialysis than women.
“Often we don’t know why these things happen,” explains Peter Storey, Programme Lead for Health Inequalities at Kidney Research UK. “By understanding the scale of the task ahead of us, we are much better positioned to tackle the gaps in research evidence and work towards solutions.”
He continues: “Sometimes we know why these disparities arise, and if they are driven by biology or by society. But often the evidence is lacking. We’re launching this report to highlight these issues, empower the research community to plug these gaps in understanding and ensure our policy-makers are ready to push for the transformations we need in our services so they are able to address these inequalities in healthcare.”
How research can rise to the challenge
The public report summarises an academic review of evidence led by Dr Fergus Caskey (Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust) and Dr Gavin Dreyer (Barts Health Department of Nephrology and Barts Health Diabetic Kidney Centre). The project involved 60 members of the renal community and recommended ways that research leaders can rise to the challenges that kidney health inequalities present. These include:
- Working to predict or prevent kidney disease (for example, looking at biomarkers to explain differences in risk of acute kidney injury between ethnic groups, and the role of genetics in CKD development).
- Protecting patients from kidney disease progression (for example, by better understanding how the interaction between risk factors for CKD affects the incidence of acute kidney injury amongst ‘at risk’ groups).
- By delivering treatment (for example, by better understanding what barriers there are that prevent people in different ethnic groups with CKD and its risk factors accessing diagnosis and good quality care).
How inequalities have affected people’s lives
The report also features several stories of people living at the sharp end of kidney health inequality, and demonstrates the impact this has had on their lives. It includes those who were at greater risk of developing kidney disease, and those who struggled with diagnosis and treatment.
Sarah was 18 when she was diagnosed with Goodpastures Syndrome. Patricia’s kidney disease took three years to diagnose, despite her having Type 2 diabetes, a known risk factor.
‘If my disease had been picked up earlier I wouldn’t have had to have the dialysis or even the transplant.”
Patricia’s kidney disease took three years to diagnose, despite her having Type 2 diabetes, a known risk factor.
“I don’t want anyone to have the horrible experience I had.”
Kidney Research UK’s commitment
Kidney Research UK will work with experts in this field to prioritise and advance the research questions presented in the report. The charity urges members of the research community to discuss and submit research proposals aimed at driving reductions in kidney health inequalities, addressing the evidence gaps identified. The charity will also continue and develop its work to reach out to disadvantaged communities, raising awareness amongst those ‘at risk’ and encouraging them to engage with kidney health inequalities research.
Influencing public policy
We launched our report by holding a panel debate in the House of Commons, featuring Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, as well as patients and renal experts.
The lively debate took place two days ahead of World Kidney Day, which this year calls for ‘kidney health for everyone everywhere’. The event was a timely opportunity to ask parliamentarians to:
- Maintain focus on kidney inequalities identified in the report and highlight the need for them to be addressed
- Call for those in the NHS to have the time and resource to carry out relevant research
- Push for service improvements to address inequalities in healthcare.
Find out more
You can view the report to find out more about kidney health inequalities in the United Kingdom.