Issue of chronic kidney disease among blacks addressed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009


LAPLACE — As part of a recent convention in New Orleans for a prominent African American fraternity, a diabetes research specialist spoke about the threat of chronic kidney disease among the black population.

Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, a 27-year veteran of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD), gave a presentation to members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity regarding risk factors of the disease and what his organization does to help get the word out to all African Americans.

“In the United States, about 26 million adults suffer from chronic kidney disease,” Rodgers said. “But there is a two- to three-fold increase among African Americans. Our goal is to empower and improve the lives of the black community.”

Rodgers expressed there are two leading risk factors contributing to the increased likelihood, including higher levels of diabetes and hypertension among blacks. He said in many cases, African Americans are less likely to know that they are more at risk.

“It has a lot to do with physical activity, diet and where African Americans end up working,” Rodgers said. “There also are particular genes that may make African Americans more at risk. They way I like to put it, our genes load the gun, but our environment pulls the trigger.”

Rodgers describes chronic kidney disease as a condition in which the small blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, making the kidneys unable to do their job. Rodgers explained that the tiny filters in the kidney start to shut down one at a time. As more and more filters are damaged, the kidneys eventually stop working and waste builds up in the blood, harming the body.

“The disease can lead to many potential complications including heart disease, anemia and bone disease,” Rodgers said. “It can progress to full-blown kidney failure, which eventually requires dialysis or transplant.”

Rodgers said part of the reason why many don’t realize they are affected is because early chronic kidney disease has no symptoms. Rodgers and his group encourage anyone with diabetes or high blood pressure to get tested for kidney disease.

“Blood and urine tests can detect it, and it is treatable if it is detected early,” Rodgers said. “The sooner you know you have it, the sooner you can start treatment to slow progression and help prevent or delay kidney failure.”

Rodgers said the NIDDKD has created the National Kidney Disease Education Program as a way to encourage people to get tested for chronic kidney disease and educate those suffering from the disease about treatments and what they can do to prevent kidney failure.

“Our two main targets for educational opportunities include the Family Reunion Initiative and the Kidney Sundays Program,” Rodgers said. “They have proven to be the best two outlets to get to the most people.”

The Family reunion Initiative targets family gatherings because the disease tends to run in families. Rodgers said there is always a shared sense of family health, and reunions are just one of those traditions of the African American Community.

“They talk about it together and discuss how to cope and how to beat it,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said the Kidney Sundays Program has also been successful because people tend to turn to places of worship to get accurate and useful information about issues that uniquely affect African Americans.

“We provide tools for faith-based organizations to educate members about making the kidney connection,” Rodgers said. “A lot of information can be disseminated through church groups.”

For more information about Rodgers’ group, visit, or call 1-866-4KIDNEY. Rodgers said the website offers a wealth of information and people can have mailers sent out free of charge.