1/19/05 - Nephrology Nurses' Successful National Campaign Educates Legislators about Kidney Disease

January 19, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Information: Janet D'Alesandro

(856) 256-2422; janetd@ajj.com

Nephrology Nurses' Successful National Campaign

Educates Legislators about Kidney Disease

The American Nephrology Nurses' Association invited lawmakers to tour dialysis facilities in their districts. A key topic was the urgent need to modernize the government's end stage renal disease policies.

PITMAN, NJ - Legislators from across the country have hailed the efforts of nephrology nurses for their sweeping 2004 education initiative on end stage renal disease (ESRD).

The American Nephrology Nurses' Association (ANNA) led a nationwide effort last year to teach lawmakers about the urgent need to modernize Medicare and help save the lives of patients with kidney disease. As part of the second annual "ESRD Education Day" campaign, ANNA invited lawmakers and staff members at the federal, state, and local levels to visit their local dialysis units and learn more about the challenges faced by constituents in their districts. 

While August 13 was designated the official day, ANNA accommodated legislators' schedules and the visits continued throughout 2004 with a few more scheduled for early 2005. As of December, 118 delegations had participated across the country, including visits from 14 members of key congressional committees. In addition, governors from 11 states and mayors from 8 cities showed their support for patients and increased public awareness by issuing ESRD Day proclamations. 

ESRD Day is part of ANNA's ongoing program to educate legislators and their staff members about patients' needs, kidney disease, health care services, and related legislation, according to Kathleen Kuchta, BSN, RN, 2004 project coordinator. Kuchta said the turnout in 2004, which was the second year ANNA sponsored the event, was approximately double that of 2003. 

:Thanks to the legislators' responsiveness, we have been able to disseminate a tremendous amount of knowledge about the issues facing the ESRD community," Kuchta said. "The bills now being considered in Washington will affect hundreds of thousands of patients and families. Legislators who toured dialysis units said the real-life experience was invaluable in helping them understand the issues facing the patients and providers, and told us that what they learned will help them support key legislation." 

Dialysis is a lifesaving treatment that the legislators' constituents receive as Medicare beneficiaries under the government's ESRD reimbursement program. Over 400,000 Americans suffer from kidney failure, with escalating numbers of new cases attributed to obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

According to some legislators and health care experts, the country's ESRD program has not kept pace with the rest of Medicare and won't be able to support the projected increase in kidney disease patients unless it is upgraded. In response, the “ESRD Modernization Act” (S. 2614 and H.R. 4927) was introduced in July 2004 is now being reconsidered in the new Congress. The measure provides funds for education programs and creates incentives to improve the quality of patient care. 

During the ESRD Day tours, Kuchta said legislators learned about the ESRD Modernization Act and were asked to support the landmark bill as it winds its way through Congress. In addition, nephrology nurses encouraged lawmakers to fuel the momentum of the Nurse Reinvestment Act, signed into law in 2002 to combat the country's severe nursing shortage. The Reinvestment Act authorizes new programs to increase the number of qualified nurses and the quality of nursing services. 

As they visited the facilities in their districts, lawmakers met with patients and members of the health care team who are their constituents. Nurses described daily operations, outlined the roles of nurses and technicians, discussed kidney disease and treatment, and provided information regarding the number of dialysis units and demographics of patients served in the legislators' districts. The lawmakers also received ANNA's ESRD Briefing Book for State and Federal Policymakers (available to the public at www.annanurse.org). The booklet presents in lay terms the basics of ESRD and includes information on underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Statistics on incidence and treatment costs are also outlined. 

This year, ANNA will continue the initiative with "ESRD Education Week" slated for August 8-12, 2005. As in 2003 and 2004, ANNA organizers will accommodate legislators' schedules and arrange visits throughout the year.

For more information on ESRD Day or to download the ESRD booklet, visit ANNA's Web site, www.annanurse.org (click on the "Health Policy" tab on the home page and choose "ESRD Education Activities" in the drop-down menu).

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ANNA is a professional nursing association comprised of more than 12,000 nephrology nurses. The association is dedicated to advancing nephrology nursing practice and positively influencing outcomes for patients with kidney or other disease processes requiring replacement therapies through advocacy, scholarship, and excellence.