Kashmir is almost done with the age of ‘pestilence and famine’ which was dominated by high rates of deaths due to infectious diseases, especially in the young.
We are now fighting infections with newer antimicrobials and to large extent have been able to keep them at the bay. Now we are cruising through a transition in epidemiology: we are suffering more because of non-infectious diseases than infections.
In top-ten causes of deaths worldwide, noncommunicable diseases now make up 7 places in the list. Kidney disease per se: as a cause of death; has risen to 10th place.
As of now, we have 850 million people affected by chronic kidney disease in the world, and more than 2 million people are receiving dialysis or are living with a kidney transplant. Therefore, we need to talk: about our health, about our kidneys and about our kidney-health.
While I am writing to you somewhere in the world a person is suffering from some degree of kidney disease for every 10 people around. Nobody is immune to suffer a kidney disease.
Kidney disease doesn’t spare the joyful youth, nor does it respect old age. It is as dangerous for a ‘fitness freak’ taking protein supplements as it is to a ‘pregnant lady’ with swollen feet.
With south-asian ancestry and more incidence of diabetes and hypertension, our load of kidney disease is snowballing into a heavy burden.
With mushrooming of accessible dialysis centers and Ayushman Bharat scheme making treatment affordable, the pool of patients with severe kidney disease is swelling up.
Third-tier cities are now embracing kidney transplant surgeries and we now have a growing number of patients living with donated kidneys. Adding to this pool of kidney disease patients, I am not seeing any respite or retreading of the epidemic of chronic kidney disease in Kashmir in view of increasing diabetes load, hypertension, and an ageing population. I am not being pessimistic but in situations difficult to handle better be alarmist than not.
The oncoming wave of chronic kidney disease can be encountered only with awareness.
Understanding can help in the early detection of kidney disease, and basic unit of any successful awareness programme is when a true information meets the targeted population.
As a clinician I strongly believe that understanding ones illness is half the way to its treatment. The month of March is observed as ‘kidney month’ world-over and every year 2nd Thursday of this month is observed as world kidney day.
Idea is to generate mass awareness about the utility of kidneys in human health and how a diseased kidney takes a toll not only on the health of a person, but also his family, caregivers and society at large.
We have been observing world kidney day since 2006 and every year there is a theme to work on. Previous two years themes highlighted the need to ‘bridge the knowledge gap’ and ‘how to live well with kidney diseases’ in years 2022 and 2021 respectively.
This years theme is slightly different. This year we are pushing for “Kidney Health for All – Preparing for the unexpected, supporting the vulnerable!”. This campaign will focus on raising awareness about disastrous events, natural or man-made, international or local, and their impact on people living with kidney disease whose access to appropriate diagnostic services, treatment, and care is hindered.
In the case of an emergency, people with kidney disease are among the most vulnerable in the community due to their constant need for carefully coordinated care - care that is frequently lifelong and entails complex continuous therapy. The impact of COVID-19 on the health system has placed further strain on this vulnerable demographic in recent years.
To avoid disruptions in access to diagnosis, treatment, and care, the entire society, including politicians, health care services, governments, businesses, and people living with kidney disease and their carers, must be prepared for unforeseen events.
This year’s theme is a call to patients, governments, world leaders, and other stakeholders in positions of power to join together to raise awareness about the issues that people with chronic kidney disease confront.
Kashmir fought floods of 2014, political turmoil, and then COVID 19 pandemic; bravely. But, lest we forget the vulnerable/ diseased people who just lost their lives because of unprecedented times hindering delivery of their health-care.
We consoled ourselves by saying they were too sick, but inside we are still not able to reconcile that we lost many of them to lack of the medical facilities they deserved. Being nephew of a mamu who lost his life to severe pneumonia in COVID time for want of a ventilator, i can very well understand what helplessness in dire-need means.
Most of our policies and infrastructure are for the days of sunshine, a day of adverse weather and we are pushed to wall, especially our vulnerable population. In this hour of despair I join my patients as being clueless alike and then comes the question “what is the way forward?”. The four word mantra would be : Aware, Sensitise, Mobilise and Deliver!
I vividly remember how one of my friends cycled from Sopore to raise awareness of patients who needed dialysis, when the political instability gripped the valley in 2019, and it yielded favourable results.
Politics aside, we have to be serious about cognisance of facts as nobody among us is immune to any kind of kidney disease and protecting our health is no less than a fundamental right, which should be guaranteed.
I urge community & religious leaders, philanthropists, school and college heads, governmental & non-governmental organisations to join us in our campaign of awareness to prepare for the unexpected in supporting the vulnerable.
Dr Asif Sadiq Wani, consultant Government Medical College Srinagar
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.