HHS Secretary Azar talks kidneys during Kidney Month

When U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar talks about kidney disease, it’s personal—his father was a dialysis patient before receiving a transplant from a living donor. So when he spoke to a group of kidney patients and advocates in Washington on March 4, it was clear he has an agenda when it comes to kidney disease—and it’s an agenda that’s easy to support for organizations like the American Kidney Fund (AKF) that are working every day to reduce the burden of kidney disease in this country.

We strongly support Secretary Azar’s efforts to prevent, detect and slow the progression of kidney disease through education and innovation.  That’s a fight we’ve long been engaged in through our Know Your Kidneys™ education and outreach initiative—the nation’s largest free kidney health screening program.

Azar described efforts to prevent kidney disease by preventing diabetes, which accounts for about half of all cases of kidney failure in the United States. He also discussed the Kidney Precision Medicine Project which seeks to “better understand the different types of kidney disease, and how they progress, using the same kind of techniques that have yielded leaps forward in targeted cancer treatments,” and research into the APOL1 gene which is strongly associated with kidney disease in African-Americans.

For patients with kidney failure, Azar focused on the need for educating people about all their options for treatment, and the need to develop new and innovative treatments. He cited HHS’s KidneyX, a public-private partnership with the American Society of Nephrology that is seeking to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease. KidneyX’s first competition is a bid to redesign dialysis.

For organizations like AKF that have been at the forefront of the fight against kidney disease for almost half a century, developments like KidneyX and the Kidney Precision Medicine Project give us real hope that as a nation we can dramatically advance the treatment of kidney disease and perhaps find a cure.

Azar spoke of the life-changing kidney transplant that his father received and the severe shortage of organs available for transplant. He especially noted the need to support living donors and to improve organ utilization from deceased donors, including those with curable diseases like hepatitis C, and to spur advances in artificial kidney research.

This aligns perfectly with AKF’s efforts to champion legislation at the federal and state levels to support more living organ donation.  It is great to have Secretary Azar as an ally in this effort and we look forward to working with him and his colleagues at HHS to change the trajectory of kidney disease in this country.  It is well past time for this. 


Holly Bode is vice president of government affairs for the American Kidney Fund.

Posted: | Author: Holly Bode

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