There is no doubt that 2020 was a year of intense focus on the Covid-19 pandemic and all aspects of our lives have been flooded with crucial information about how to keep safe (masks, hand hygiene and maintaining distance). Sadly, the pandemic continues but now there is a safe and effective vaccine. The public health focus now has expanded to educating all communities, particularly communities of color, about the importance of getting a vaccine when it is our turn. Take a look at highlights and Vaccine Q & A from the very well-attended February 13th vaccination event at the New Hope Baptist Church in Denver.
While Covid-19 has dominated our lives, multiple other health conditions continue to impact our futures and quality of life and can place an individual at higher risk for complications from Covid-19. For example, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease increase the risk for serious complications related to coronavirus infection. These diseases, along with cancer, immunosuppression (e.g., resulting from a transplant), sickle cell disease, as well as other conditions are called “co-morbidities.” The risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms is a sobering reminder to pay attention to our overall health and to do all we can to prevent obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease.
Throughout the year there are numerous observances that remind us to be aware of conditions that impact our health. For example, in the month of April there are multiple health conditions and lifestyle practices that are observed such as Alcohol Awareness, Stress Awareness, Parkinson’s Disease Awareness and Testicular Cancer. In the month of May there are observances for Arthritis, Hepatitis and Lupus. The month of August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Now more than ever, it is important every month of the year to learn about conditions that might put us at higher risk for Covid-19 complications.
March is National Kidney Month and according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), African Americans are almost four times as likely as Whites to develop kidney failure. African Americans make up about 13 percent of the population, yet they account for 35 percent of the people with kidney failure in the United States.
Infographic Source: KidneyFund.org
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney failure among African Americans. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (part of the NIH), you can prevent kidney disease through healthy diet, increased exercise, controlling blood pressure, and staying on top of your risk by speaking with your doctor about kidney disease. Other lifestyle modifications such as reducing stress and limiting alcohol intake go a long way in maintaining healthy kidney function. The National Kidney Foundation (Denver affiliate) offers many education and support programs to the public and to kidney disease specialists.
As we welcome the month of March and hope for mild Spring weather that will allow more outdoor socializing with loved-ones, it remains important to mask up, wash hands frequently, avoid crowds and maintain at least a 6ft social distance (and get vaccinated!). Let’s also remember during National Kidney Month how vital it is to take steps to reduce the risk of Kidney Disease.
By: Sheila Cohen, MSW, LCSW – Colorado Black Health Collaborative Volunteer