African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are at high risk for developing kidney failure. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, African Americans are almost four times as likely as Whites to develop kidney failure. And while African Americans make up about 13 percent of the population, they account for 35 percent of the people with kidney failure in the United States.
“I’m not sure everybody understands the impact of kidney disease among African Americans and people of color who tend to experience this chronic disease more so than others – at least four times more,” says Mary Muse, Director of Nursing for Wisconsin Corrections System. “It’s a scary thing to be told that your kidneys are failing. What can we do, even early in life, to help? Our lifestyles can begin to lead us down that trajectory that ultimately leads to chronic kidney disease.
“So we are excited to be talking about kidney disease and making this information available to people who need it,” she adds. “This is something we have not done before.”
The Madison Metropolitan Links will be hosting a forum titled Black K.A.R.E. (Kidney Awareness Resources Education) on Sunday, Jan. 16, to help inform the community about kidney health and kidney disease.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Debbie Jones, who will talk about what kidneys do and why they are important and how people can live healthier lives.
“I am so happy that she is joining us in partnership on this because one of the things we will talk about at some point as we talk about health inequities and disparities is the importance of having a provider that understands you and listens to you,” Muse says. “And one of the things that I know about Dr. Debbie Jones is that not only is she so knowledgeable, but she’s a compassionate provider.”
The Links, Incorporated, is a national organization comprised of approximately 15,000 women of color from all walks of life and age brackets, who share a common and genuine vision of friendship and service. The Madison Links has been serving the Madison community and supporting Madison’s African-American students for 37 years.
“This initiative that we are taking on as the Madison Links is part of a larger initiative from the Links International in collaboration with Baxter [International Inc.] to focus on educating the African American community and communities of color around kidney disease with the belief that when we understand how our kidneys function, the purpose, and what kind of risks factors can contribute to chronic kidney disease and renal failure, then we can be better advocates for ourselves as patients and we can develop better skill sets in navigating the health system,” Muse tells Madison365.
Beyond being a longtime registered nurse, an administrator, and the author of numerous publications on correctional nursing, Muse is a member of the Madison Links’ health committee and she chairs the organization’s strategic planning committee. She’s a past president of the Links’ and has been a member since 2012.
“African Americans and people of color tend to have higher rates of high blood pressure and that can be a contributing factor leading to kidney disease,” Muse says. “Diabetes is another area that we’re certainly impacted as people of color and that also can lead over time to kidney failure. And then there’s heredity, as well.
“There’s also the social determinants of health – where we live, how we live, access to health care, understanding how to navigate the system, having providers who understand the unique differences between kidney tests and outcomes within African Americans as compared to other populations is important.”
This will be the first of three forums on kidney health. What ages is this event for?
“We would love to have a very mixed group of folks because I believe that there is something for everyone. This is for people of every age,” Muse says. “Certainly, it is something that affects older individuals more but if we can get right early and have that knowledge we can minimize some of the outcomes.
“Just learning how we can stay healthy from the beginning can impact us on how we make choices as we go along in life,” she adds. “So we don’t have to wait until we’re a little bit older regarding managing your blood pressure, being aware that blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac disease – all of those things can be factors tied to kidney disease.”
The Madison Metropolitan Links, Inc. invites the community to a Zoom forum on kidney care Sunday, Jan. 16, 3-4:30 p.m. Register in advance for this meeting here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Here is the link to the Zoom.