Blacks in Western Pennsylvania Have High Rates of Kidney Failure; Educational Campaigns Encourage Prevention, Early Detection
Western Pennsylvania has the highest rate of blacks with end-stage renal disease, or kidney failure, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Renal Data System, and as a result health care workers are targeting the group with prevention and early detection messages, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. According to the Tribune-Review, blacks are almost four times as likely as whites to die of kidney failure. Major risk factors for kidney disease include high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the Tribune-Review.
Cheryl Winkler, head of the molecular genetic epidemiological studies section at the National Cancer Institute, said, "If you go to a dialysis center, it's disproportionately African-Americans. This has been known for a long time, but nobody was ever quite sure why." In a study published in the journal Nature in October 2008, Winkler and her colleagues found a gene associated with people of African descent that increased risk for kidney failure. She said, "What we're hoping that means is that we can begin to screen people in the future and tell them their risk for kidney disease and perhaps develop better therapeutics and drugs," adding, "We could have a form of personalized medicine."
Health care workers encourage exercise, healthy eating and other behaviors to prevent the onset of obesity, high blood pressure and other conditions that can lead to kidney disease. The University of Pittsburgh Center for Minority Health's Healthy Black Family Project provides blacks with educational material, offers no-cost African dance classes to help encourage physical activity and "bring[s] doctors into the community to foster trust," the Tribune-Review reports (Heinrichs, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 1/25).