A researcher with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is part of an elite international team that generated data revealing the magnitude and severity of kidney diseases worldwide. Csaba P. Kovesdy, MD, FASN, director of the Clinical Outcomes and Clinical Trials Program in Nephrology at UTHSC, is a contributing author on a newly published survey that shows more than 850 million people worldwide suffer from chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, or renal failure.
According to a paper on the survey by the team published in Kidney International, the official journal of the International Society of Nephrology (ISN), “The number is a truly concerning figure that is twice the estimated number of peoplememphis with diabetes worldwide and 20 times higher than the number of individuals affected by AIDS/HIV worldwide. This contrasts with other major chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, whose effects on mortality are declining.”
“Because chronic kidney disease is a largely silent condition, most affected individuals don’t even know that they suffer from it,” Dr. Kovesdy said. “All the while, chronic kidney disease is linked to a host of adverse outcomes, such as worsened hypertension and cardiovascular disease and increased mortality. A recent Global Burden of Disease report indicated that while relative death rates decreased for most diseases worldwide, chronic kidney disease was one of only a handful of conditions to show an increase since 1990. There is an urgent need for heightened awareness about kidney disease and its adverse outcomes, among both the affected patients and also the general public, health officials and policymakers.”
Dr. Kovesdy, who also serves as chief of the Nephrology Section at the Memphis VA Medical Center, is one of six experts from around the world who have worked for the past five years on a data harmonization project chronicling the global burden of kidney disease. The project is part of a collaboration between the ISN, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), and the European Renal Association (ERA), to develop consistent messaging about kidney disease worldwide.
The initiative focused on producing “immediately understandable” statistical figures to help draw attention to the societal health burden caused by the disruption of normal kidney function. One of its goals was a simple global estimate of the number of individuals affected by kidney disease, irrespective of etiology, chronicity, severity, or treatment modality. Such a number could more effectively convey to health and government officials, the public, and the media, the large and growing relevance of the problem.
“Despite its major public health impact, chronic kidney disease is sadly not recognized as a major public health threat on par with other chronic conditions,” said Dr. Kovesdy. “Our initiative was meant to raise awareness by pointing out the sheer number of patients suffering from this condition. This will hopefully result in increased research funding and the development of improved measures to prevent and treat kidney diseases.”
The ASN named Dr. Kovesdy its lead representative for the initiative in 2017. Dr. Kovesdy was selected to work on behalf of the ASN because of his globally recognized work in the epidemiology of kidney disease. The other society leader representatives are Kitty J. Jager, MD, PhD, of The Netherlands on behalf of the ERA-EDTA, and Robyn Langham, PhD, of Australia on behalf of the ISN.
The experts met twice in face-to-face meetings and held three teleconferences to discuss a pragmatic approach to determining this single number to convey the essence of the epidemic facing the global community.
The survey, “A single number for advocacy and communication – worldwide more than 850 million individuals have kidney diseases”, was published in the December 2021 issue of Kidney International.