By Tonya L. Saffer, MPH
Fueled by passion and urgency your government relations team is dedicated to ensuring that the Trump Administration recognizes chronic kidney disease as a public health priority. Along with NKF’s Executive Leadership, we will be working to engage leaders throughout the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the agencies it overseas to include the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes for Health (NIH) on opportunities to improve earlier detection and care of CKD patients and access to transplantation for patients who progress to kidney failure.
In addition, to being an advocate for kidney patients, I am also a public health advocate and the two are clearly intertwined. In fact, it was my experience working with kidney patients and advocating on their behalf that fueled my decision to become a student of public health. Public health is really about protecting the health of populations. “[It] is the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases.” We have seen many examples of advocacy successes in public health in the areas of diabetes prevention and care, and heart disease prevention and care. For example, the Federal government has invested substantial resources into developing and testing the Diabetes Prevention Program; that program was so successful that it is now included as a covered Medicare benefit. The government is also piloting the Million Hearts: Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Model, which creates payment incentives for health care practitioners to focus on identifying people at risk for heart conditions and helping those individuals reduce that risk. This is in addition to substantial Federal funds that have been dedicated to diabetes and heart disease prevention, treatment, and research programs. However, despite the large overlap between diabetes, heart disease and chronic kidney disease – little attention has been focused on prevention, earlier care of CKD patients, or kidney disease research. It is beyond time to change that.
This year we are doubling down on our efforts to meet with leadership in the Federal agencies that I mentioned above, and ask that an emphasis on early CKD detection and treatment be included in this year’s HHS strategic planning and healthcare quality improvement goals. We will continue to develop and advocate for an innovative kidney care model that creates incentives for primary care practitioners to detect CKD earlier, in people at risk, and to focus on treatment efforts delaying progression of CKD, improving health outcomes and collaborating with nephrologists on the care of patients who progress to advanced CKD. This model will demonstrate that earlier detection and care can improve patient outcomes, allow patients whose disease progresses opportunities to make informed decisions about their treatment options before kidney failure and all the while lower health care costs. We will ask for dedicated public health funding for CKD prevention, early treatment, and research efforts. We will urge the Administration to continue and further the commitment of the last Administration to develop initiatives and policies that increase access to organ donation. We will also collaborate with our public health colleagues in the agencies to create practical solutions to integrating chronic kidney disease detection and care into initiatives and policies which promote diabetes and hypertension control.
In addition, we will continue to advocate relentlessly for kidney patients to maintain choice in health insurance options and to receive comprehensive education on all of those options. With so many changes being proposed for health insurance it is critical that protections for kidney patients are strengthened.
Your support and engagement will be critical to our efforts. There will be roles for our network of patients, family members, and healthcare professionals to help us achieve our goals and we will certainly keep you aware of them and invite you to work with us.
Thank you for the inspiration you all give me through your personal stories, to work harder and go further to bring about changes in government policies and programs that improve the lives of kidney patients.