Chronic kidney disease currently affects 1 in 10 Europeans, which is a hefty 30% increase over the last 10 years, largely attributed to unhealthy eating habits, increased body fat and sedentary lifestyle becoming more prevalent. “Yet currently 97% of health expenses in the EU are spent on treatment and only 3% is invested in prevention – this absolutely must change,” said Prof Andrew Rees, Chairman of the European Kidney Health Alliance (EKHA), who organised the MEP event. “Prevention is better than cure,” Prof Rees said, stressing the need for more focus on primary and secondary prevention, and early treatment so that kidney disease does not progress to the point of renal failure, making dialysis necessary.
In Europe today there are an estimated 324,000 people on dialysis. MEP Mrs Frieda Brepoels, Chair for the Kidney Health Group, said: “Unfortunately the fact that we are still confronted with so many people on dialysis or on a waiting list for a donor organ proves to a certain extent the inherent failure of our public health system. Transplantation is a last resort for people with chronic kidney disease. We should focus on how we can prevent European citizens from needing transplantation in the first place.”
The World Kidney Day delegation heard the dramatic story of a life tied to a dialysis machine, from Dutch kidney patient Paul Jongen. “I wanted my life back, that is no life, it’s like living on a roller coaster, up and down, ill and unwell. We need to work to change health policy so that prevention and early treatment is the goal, to keep people with kidney dysfunction from progressing to this hell.”
Early diagnosis of kidney disease can improve outcomes for patients, and help ease the financial burden on health systems. However, kidney disease is usually ‘silent’, showing no specific symptoms until it becomes more advanced; screening is often the only way the disease can be detected in its early stages. If diagnosed early, kidney disease can often be successfully managed through medication and lifestyle advice, delaying or preventing a move to dialysis. If diagnosed late, renal failure is complex, challenging and expensive to treat, and often leads to premature death.
The World Kidney Day delegation called for increased recognition of chronic kidney disease in European health policy, and for concrete action to tackle unhealthy lifestyle factors which may increase the risk of developing this and other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
For more information and details of events around the globe in celebration of World Kidney Day – please see www.worldkidneyday.org