AKF Then and Now: A Legacy of Caring
Helping Patients in Need
The American Kidney Fund was founded in 1971 out of concern for a single individual who had been bankrupted by the costs associated with treating kidney failure. In its first year, AKF provided financial assistance to 79 patients who would not have otherwise been able to pay for life-saving dialysis treatments.
Today, AKF has grown into the nation’s leading provider of charitable assistance to dialysis patients. In 2012, AKF helped nearly 84,000 people—1 out of every 5 dialysis patients in the United States—pay for health insurance premiums and other treatment-related expenses.
Increasing Awareness of a Silent Killer
In 1980, the American Kidney Fund began a public education outreach program to promote its new toll-free patient assistance and kidney information line.
Today, millions of people nationwide benefit from the American Kidney Fund's efforts to raise awareness of kidney disease through health education and prevention efforts. AKF's national campaign, Pair Up: Join the Fight to Prevent Kidney Disease, empowers women to protect themselves, and the people they love, from kidney disease, our nation's 9th leading cause of death. Extensive online health education materials and a toll-free HelpLine (866.300.2900) provide information to people nationwide who are at risk for kidney disease.
Supporting Clinical Research
In 1974, the American Kidney Fund awarded its first research grant to Dr. Samuel L. Kountz, a pioneer in kidney transplantation from Brooklyn, N.Y. Dr. Kountz’s groundbreaking research in tissue typing led to the increased use of kidneys from unrelated donors.
Today, AKF continues to support research though its Clinical Scientist in Nephrology (CSN) program, established in 1988 to improve the quality of care provided to kidney patients and promote clinical research in nephrology. Alumni of the CSN program have gone on to become leading academic researchers at institutions nationwide. In 2012, AKF named three CSN fellows, Dr. Sagar Nigwekar of Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Margaret Yu of the University of Washington and Dr. Katherine Lynch of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Advancing Professional Education
In the late 1970s, the American Kidney Fund began sponsoring professional meetings that explored important developments in the treatment of kidney disease, working with leading hospitals and nephrologists.
Today, AKF provides continuing education to thousands of renal and primary care professionals each year through its online courses. These professional education programs cover a wide range of topics related to advances in kidney disease and treatment, prevention, and the importance of early identification and intervention—all with a focus on improving patient quality of life.
Advocating for Patients
From its earliest days, the American Kidney Fund has been an active advocate for public policy that ensures access to high quality care for kidney patients and supports research and prevention efforts.
Today, AKF is actively engaged with the Congressional Kidney Caucus and others representing groups at risk for kidney disease, helping build understanding of the disease, its causes and how it can be prevented. The American Kidney Fund’s Advocacy Network informs and motivates patients, family, friends and caregivers to speak out and raise awareness in the fight against kidney disease. The network’s more than 1,300 advocates from 47 states and the District of Columbia engage policymakers on issues relating to kidney disease and patient care.
Reaching Out to Communities at Risk
Recognizing the disproportionate impact of kidney disease on African Americans, the American Kidney Fund in 1996 launched a health screening program, enlisting churches and other organizations in a broad education and early intervention effort.
Today, AKF holds free health screening events in cities around the country, with an emphasis on reaching populations most at risk for kidney disease: people with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease; those over age 60; and anyone who is African American, Hispanic, Asian American or Native American. Thousands of people are screened each year, and around 25 percent are found to have risk factors for kidney disease. Over the past 10 years, AKF has screened more than 90,000 people.