Dialysis providers, industry, and patient and professional associations took steps to acknowledge the importance of World Kidney Day on March 8, part of a month-long recognition for National Kidney Month in the United States.

In Washington, the American Kidney Fund organized a gathering 24 dialysis patients, caregivers and family members from 14 states to urge their elected representatives to protect living organ donors and to ensure low-income patients continue to have access to health insurance.

“Kidney Month and World Kidney Day help us put a spotlight on kidney disease and the devastating impact it can have on patients physically, emotionally and financially,” LaVarne A. Burton, AKF president and CEO, said in a press release. “Each year when we bring advocates to meet with their legislators on Capitol Hill, they make a powerful case to elected officials about the urgent need for Congress to take steps to help people living with kidney disease.”

The advocates joined a Congressional breakfast briefing focused on women and kidney disease. March 8 was also International Women’s Day, and the briefing focused on ways that kidney disease affects women differently than it does men. The advocates also lent support to the Living Donor Protection Act (H.R. 1270) to make it easier for people to donate a kidney by prohibiting insurance discrimination and adding living donation to the Family Medical Leave Act. The group also talked to legislators about cosponsoring H.R. 3976, the Access to Marketplace Insurance Act, which would require health insurers to accept charitable premium assistance payments from nonprofits like the AKF for health insurance premiums.

Other announcements on World Kidney Day included:

• Fresenius Medical Care North America announced it would donate $40,000 to Kidney School to expand its services for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

• Diaverum, an international dialysis provider, raised awareness about the effects of dialysis on pregnancy. Some of the most common risks involved, apart from the risk of miscarriage, are preterm delivery and low birth weight for the baby and increased blood pressure and preeclampsia for the mother, the company said.

“Having a child and starting a family is something many women wish for. Women on dialysis who want to get pregnant are, however, faced with many challenges,” the company said in a prepared statement. “Conception rates are very low, and a pregnancy is associated with many risks, both for the mother and for the child.”

• The Kidney Foundation of Canada along with the Can-SOLVE CKD Network and the Canadian Society of Nephrology urged Canadians on World Kidney Day to learn more about kidney health.

In Canada, one in 10 Canadians have some level of kidney disease, and an estimated 3,000 Canadians die from kidney disease each year, the foundation reported. It is the ninth-leading cause of death for women in the country.

“This year, World Kidney Day falls on the same date as International Women’s Day, offering a unique opportunity for us to focus on women’s kidney health,” Elizabeth Myles, executive director of The Kidney Foundation of Canada, said in a release. “The Kidney Foundation of Canada, in partnership with Can-SOLVE CKD and the Canadian Society of Nephrology, encourage and empower women to educate themselves to maintain a kidney healthy lifestyle.”

“By involving patients, many of whom are women, in identifying research questions and contributing to the network’s work as a whole, we are working to make a real difference in the statistics and the lives of Canadians living with kidney disease,” Adeera Levin, MD, who co-leads the Can-SOLVE CKD Network with Braden Manns, MD, said in the release.

• DaVita Kidney Care honored World Kidney Day by hosting a panel of DaVita employees and leaders in the Denver community to talk about kidney health. Panelists included representatives from the American Transplant Foundation, the NKF, Denver Health and DaVita. In support of this year’s World Kidney Day theme of women’s health and empowerment, the event focused on policy and advocacy, transplants and living donors, health equity and patient care.

“Our kidneys perform many critical functions, and people with kidney disease usually don’t have symptoms until they have lost a significant amount of their kidney function,” Amanda Hale, RN, vice president of nursing for DaVita Kidney Care, said. “We strive to empower individuals to learn more about their risks for kidney disease and take control of their health.”

Other World Kidney Day activities were conducted by the NKF, which partnered with 10-year-old America’s Got Talent singer and kidney transplant recipient Angelica Hale. The NKF and Hale are advancing the “Heart Your Kidneys” public awareness campaign which was introduced last year to increase knowledge about and concern for kidneys.

“Eat right, exercise, drink water and keep your kidneys healthy, because whatever you’re good at, there’s only one you,” Hale said as video public service announcements for the campaign. Hale also recently became the NKF’s newest face of kidney advocacy on Capitol Hill during this year’s Kidney Patient Summit, where she helped support key NKF legislative priorities. –by Mark E. Neumann