The American Kidney Fund was founded in 1971 by a group of people whose friend was bankrupted by the cost of lifesaving dialysis treatments. In our first year, we were able to raise funds to help that one patient, along with several dozen others.
A lot has changed over nearly five decades, but we’re still fighting kidney disease one patient at a time. Learn more below about the ways our programs have evolved through the years to meet the growing need.
Helping more than 1 million patients in need
In our first year, we provided financial assistance to 79 patients who would not have otherwise been able to pay for dialysis.
Over the years, with the support of a caring public, the American Kidney Fund grew into the nation’s leading provider of charitable assistance to kidney failure patients. In 2017, we helped more than 93,000 people—1 out of every 5 dialysis patients in the United States—pay for health insurance premiums and other treatment-related expenses. Since our founding, we have provided financial assistance to more than 1.5 million patients.
Increasing awareness of a silent killer
In 1980, AKF began a public education outreach program to promote our new toll-free patient assistance and kidney information phone line.
Today, millions of people nationwide benefit from our efforts to raise awareness of kidney disease through health education and prevention efforts. With more than 2.8 million visitors annually, AKF's website, KidneyFund.org, is one of the leading online sources for kidney health information. Extensive online health education materials, free online webinars, a toll-free HelpLine (866.300.2900) and our nationwide network of Kidney Health Coaches provide information to people nationwide who are living with kidney disease or who are at risk for developing it.
Supporting clinical research
In 1974, we awarded our first research grant to Dr. Samuel L. Kountz, a pioneer in kidney transplantation from Brooklyn, New York. Dr. Kountz’s groundbreaking research in tissue typing led to the increased use of kidneys from unrelated donors.
Today, we continue to support nephrology's brightest scholars through our 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 2017, we awarded a Clinical Scientist in Nephrology fellowship to Dr. Jessica Tangren, a research fellow at the Brigham and Women's Hospital/Massachusetts General Join Nephrology Fellowship Program.
Advancing professional education
In the late 1970s, we began sponsoring professional meetings that explored important developments in the treatment of kidney disease, working with leading hospitals and nephrologists.
Today, we provide continuing education to thousands of renal and primary care professionals each year through our 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 improved public policy
From our earliest days, AKF has been a strong advocate for public policy that ensures access to high quality care for kidney patients and supports research and prevention efforts.
Today, we are working at the federal and state level to build understanding of kidney disease and to advocate for policies that improve the lives of kidney patients. We fight discriminatory health insurance practices and work to advance a policy agenda that includes increased, equitable federal funding for kidney disease research. Our Advocacy Network of nearly 10,000 patients and caregivers from all 50 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, in 1996 we launched a health screening program, enlisting churches and other organizations in a broad education and early intervention effort.
Today, we hold 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. We screen thousands of people each year. Over the past 10 years, we have provided free health screenings to well over 100,000 people. In recent years, more than half the people we screened were found to be at risk for high blood pressure, the second-leading cause of kidney disease. Nearly 1 in 5 people screened were at risk for diabetes, the leading cause of kidney disease.