A call to action on kidney disease in women

The George Institute for Global Health in collaboration with Arogya World held a panel discussion on 7th March to highlight the impact of kidney disease on women’s health and call for renewed efforts to improve prevention and treatment

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New Delhi: Chronic kidney disease is the 8th leading cause of mortality among women, causing more than 600,000 deaths a year. In this backdrop and to mark World Kidney Day and International Women’s Day 2018, The George Institute for Global Health in collaboration with Arogya World held a panel discussion on 7th March to highlight the impact of kidney disease on women’s health and call for renewed efforts to improve maternal and fetal outcomes and women’s access to kidney care, as well as better prevention policies.

A statement, “Kidney Disease in Women: A Call to Action”, produced by the Taskforce on Women and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), was previewed at the event. Both The George Institute and Arogya World are members of the Taskforce.

Prof Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of The George Institute India and President-Elect of the International Society of Nephrology, highlighted the additional risks that women face to their kidney health, specifically during pregnancy. “We know that pregnancy-related complications increase the risk of kidney disease, and that women who have preeclampsia/eclampsia, for example, are 4 to 5 times more likely to have kidney failure,” he said. “We need increased awareness about the risks, early screening for high blood pressure, and better follow-up programs for patients diagnosed with kidney disease in pregnancy.”

The statement highlights the need for targeted, gender-sensitive interventions and treatment throughout the life-cycle of girls and women, a call reinforced at the event by Dr Nalini Saligram, Founder and CEO of Arogya World, and former co-chair of the Taskforce on Women and NCDs. “The life course approach to women’s health is the need of the hour and we need to go beyond maternal and child health to tackle NCDs in women” she said.

“Arogya World conducted a 10-country study of 10,000 women on the impact of NCDs, and found that testing for chronic diseases was shockingly low among women. One third of the women in our study had never had their blood pressure checked, and half had never had their blood sugar tested. In the era of Sustainable Development Goals, surely we can do better than that,” she pointed out.

A highlight of the event was a special address by Aqeela Ahmed, a woman who has been living on dialysis for 15 years since developing chronic kidney disease during pregnancy. She described the challenges of getting a proper diagnosis and accessing quality dialysis, and how she had found it difficult to accept what had happened to her and move on with her life.

‘I realized that getting dialysis done was akin to going to work every day – you just need to do it regularly and not skip any session,’ she said.

Among the other speakers at the event were Dr Shalini Singh, Consultant, Community Processes, Comprehensive Primary Health Care, NHSRC, who spoke about the government’s efforts to roll out screening for NCDs; Dr Bulbul Sood, Country Director for Jhpiego, who passionately advocated for addressing gestational diabetes among women; Dr K.G. Santhya of Population Council, who called for more data to inform policy and programs; and Rohit Singh, Vice-President for Business Development at Nephroplus, who discussed gender inequalities in access to dialysis.

The statement, ‘Kidney Disease in Women: A Call to Action’ can be read in full here.