Today marks World Kidney Day, an annual global event designed to raise awareness about the importance of your kidneys.
For those of you who may not know, the kidneys are the fist-sized, bean-shaped organs (yes, that’s why Kidney-beans are called such), located near the middle of the back. While relatively small in size, they do a big job; keeping your blood clean and chemically balanced. Every day, the kidneys process around 230 litres of blood to sift out around 2 litres of waste products and extra water.
Since the Kidneys are vital in maintaining the purity of our blood, it’s unsurprising that a whole national day is dedicated to them. World Kidney Day began in 2006, and each year the global campaign highlights a particular theme. 2014 focuses on Chronic Kidney Disease and Ageing, however the UK is looking specifically at Kidney Health Matters and ways to reduce risk to your kidneys.
Kidney Research UK
In light of World Kidney Day and spreading the importance of healthy kidneys, Kidney Research UK has established awareness projects running in both Birmingham and Glasgow to raise awareness of kidney disease amongst the South Asian community. The project was developed after research has shown that there is a surprisingly low number of registered South Asian organ donors.
...only about 1.6% of all donors in the past 5 years in the UK were of Asian background.
The projects are especially important as kidney disease is not widely known in South Asian communities, resulting many failing to notice the signs and symptoms of kidney failure. As a result, many people with damaged kidneys allow them to further degenerate before visiting a doctor. According to statistics, at least one million people in the UK with moderate to severe kidney disease have not yet been identified and 20% of people with kidney failure are only referred to a specialist when their kidneys have already completely failed and their outcome is poor.
With regard to the alarming statistics, raising awareness about the importance of healthy kidneys is vitally important within the Asian community. Neerja Jain, Health Improvement Projects Manager at Kidney Research UK said: “Kidney failure affects the Asian community up to five times as much as the Caucasian community.”
Although kidney failure is a prominent disease in the Asian community, further research shows that there is a distinct lack of South Asian donors. Neerja continues: “18% of the UK kidney transplant waiting list is made up of individuals from the Asian community, but only about 1.6% of all donors in the past 5 years in the UK were of Asian background.”
The reluctance to become an organ donor may be due to cultural, emotional or even religious beliefs...
The need for organ transplants in South Asian communities is more than three times higher than that of the general public, due to the higher prevalence of illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. Kidney Research UK’s project targets Scotland as statistics reveal that out of the 2,120,826 people in Scotland currently on the NHS Organ Donor Register, only a shockingly small fraction - 1,512 people - are from Asian communities.
Dr. Sharif, Consultant Kidney Doctor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, has also noted the lack of South Asian donors in his region. He comments: “It is well known that there are a disproportionately high number of patients from this community who are waiting for life saving and life enhancing treatment and transplants. However, it is also well known, that there are disproportionately few donors from this community.”
Asian Kidney Donors
While organ matching is not based entirely on ethnicity, a match is more likely to be found when the ethnicity of the donor and recipient are the same. Therefore, it is vitally important to raise awareness about the need for organ donation amongst South Asian communities. The reason for the lack of South Asian donors is unclear. The reluctance to become an organ donor may be due to cultural, emotional or even religious beliefs. However, it is more probable that it is simply due to a lack of awareness and overall confusion about what it means to be an organ donor and what it actually entails.
While organ donation is not currently widely known in South Asian communities, awareness raised through projects like Kidney Research UK’s can make a considerable difference. Building on the public’s awareness and understanding of organ donation and the benefits of transplantation, can encourage more people to carry donor cards.