GW Medical Experts Promote Kidney Disease Awareness

Nine months after the Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Center opened, experts bolster efforts to reach those most at risk.

New Metrobus advertisements featuring GW's kidney center debuted this summer. (Photo courtesy of Outfront Media)
August 10, 2016

By Kristen Mitchell

The Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Center at the George Washington University is focusing on community awareness to combat high rates of kidney disease, a condition that disproportionately affects African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the D.C. area.

Experts at the center are reaching out to those most at risk of kidney disease and are doing so with new Metrobus advertisements that debuted this summer.

The Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Center was formed last November as a collaborative effort among the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, GW Hospital and the GW Medical Faculty Associates. It was funded by a $2.5 million gift from the Ron & Joy Paul Family Foundation.

The center has made a five-year commitment to raise awareness of kidney disease and its warning signs, to increase the number of kidney transplants and improve community outreach and screenings for risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

“The key things we’re trying to do are really about education. How can we hopefully resolve the problem of having kidney disease and kidney failure down the road,” said Tony Englert, executive director of the center.

Trying to reach a wider audience and following up with additional health care is a goal for the kidney center, Mr. Englert said. The center is producing public service spots for television and radio to reach potential patients, and will run a digital campaign starting in February. The university also recently took out advertisements on Metrobuses on 40 different routes that serve primarily D.C.’s wards 7 and 8. The ads feature regular commuters and carry a message that one out of three riders have kidney disease and might not know it.

The advertisements will be up through early October, Mr. Englert said.

African Americans are more than three times as likely to suffer from kidney disease than are white people, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Rates of end-stage kidney disease are high in Washington, D.C., and the disease is largely concentrated in minority population centers of Northeast and Southeast D.C., Mr. Englert said. To tackle the problem, the kidney center has set up screenings and information sessions in the past few months at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in Southeast.

“If we only host an event one time, it won’t be successful in changing lifestyles. We need to go back and hold screenings and education programs on a regular basis,” Mr. Englert said. “We want to make sure everybody knows the GW Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center is here.”

The kidney center is looking to build on its first nine months by increasing the number of regular, ongoing screenings, improve identifying individuals at risk and ensure that they are connected to follow up treatment after a diagnosis, Mr. Englert said. Kidney center officials participated in the NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo in January, where about 500 people received blood pressure screenings and learned about health risks they may have.

The goal is to reach people before their renal disease turns into kidney failure and to help them make diet and exercise changes that will slow how quickly the condition advances, Mr. Englert said. Family members of individuals with kidney disease are also encouraged to attend information sessions because the disease often runs in families.

“We need to make sure patients and their families know the risk they are at,” Mr. Englert said. “Kidney disease didn’t just start yesterday, and we won’t just solve it tomorrow.”

Reaching potential patients early on can be a challenge, but it can be even harder to ensure those who are diagnosed with kidney disease or hypertension follow through with treatment and additional care, Mr. Englert said. Thirteen people in the United States die waiting for a kidney transplant every day, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Since the center was formed, doctors have worked closely with the GW Transplant Institute, which also launched last year and completed its 60th kidney transplant in July.