1/23/07 - National Kidney Disease Campaign Continues to Expand Legislators' Knowledge

Contact: Linda Alexander

856-256-2300, ext. 2411 • linda@ajj.com


National Kidney Disease Campaign Continues to Expand Legislators’ Knowledge

The American Nephrology Nurses’ Association educated lawmakers about challenges facing the renal community during the fourth annual “ESRD Education Week.”

Pitman, NJ - In an effort to teach lawmakers about end stage renal disease (ESRD) and the challenges patients face, the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association (ANNA) successfully led a fourth year of its sweeping ESRD Education Week initiative in 2006.

This nationwide campaign educates lawmakers about the critical needs of renal patients in their districts and encourages them to support increased funding for legislation directly affecting their constituents. As in previous years, ANNA invited lawmakers and staff members at the federal, state and local levels to tour local dialysis units and meet with nurses and patients.

ANNA volunteers and members expanded their focus in 2006 to teach lawmakers about the entire continuum of renal disease including transplant and chronic kidney disease (CKD). One notable visit in Virginia allowed 21 key Congressional aides to tour hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis units and watch a kidney transplant procedure in real time on video link.

While August 7-11, 2006, was designated the official week, ANNA accommodated legislators’ schedules and visits took place throughout the year. During the 2006 campaign, 88 Congressional members or their aides participated across the country, including visits from 23 members of key congressional committees. In addition, 19 state legislators and 12 state or city officials took part in tours, with 7 cities issuing ESRD Week proclamations. In total, 42 facilities across 30 states took part in the campaign.

According to Kathleen Kuchta, BSN, RN, 2006 project coordinator, the campaign has influenced more than 350 policymakers over the last four years. ANNA members continue to inform lawmakers and their staff members about patients’ needs, kidney disease, health care services and related legislation.

“Legislators have told us that touring CKD clinics, dialysis facilities, and transplant centers and meeting with providers and patients is a truly valuable experience for them, one that helps them support key legislation,” Kuchta said. “The campaign, which began as one day and has now evolved into a full week and then some, has allowed us to illustrate the critical situation that exists in the ESRD community. We are so grateful to the lawmakers for listening to our concerns and working to pass legislation that affects the lives of renal patients.”

During the ESRD tours, nurses describe daily operations of a dialysis unit, outline the role of nurses and the entire multidisciplinary care team, discuss kidney disease and treatment and provide information about the number of treatment facilities and patients served in the legislators’ districts. In addition, nurses speak with the lawmakers and their staff members about the effects of the nursing shortage and other challenges facing the renal community.

To supplement the tours of the dialysis facilities, legislators also receive ANNA’s ESRD Briefing Book for State and Federal Policymakers. The booklet presents the basics of ESRD in lay terms and includes information on underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Statistics on incidence and treatment costs are also presented.

In 2006, nurses continued to focus on the “Kidney Care Quality and Improvement Act” (S.635/H.R.1298) as it moved its way through the House and Senate. The bill, which was introduced in March 2005, addresses many key issues including reimbursement. It also advances quality care to Americans with kidney disease before they suffer complete organ failure and increases awareness in local communities. Many additional policymakers signed on to co-sponsor this important legislation during the 109th Congressional Session. Similar legislation will be reintroduced in the 110th Congress.

Legislators have acknowledged that reimbursement for dialysis treatment has not kept pace with the rest of Medicare and that the existing ESRD program won’t be able to support the projected increase in patients unless it is reformed.

In 2005, ANNA was named to the Associations Advance America Honor Roll for its ESRD Education Week campaign. The Honor Roll is a national awards competition sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), in Washington, DC, honoring organizations that help advance American society through innovative projects.

ANNA is also a member of Kidney Care Partners (KCP), a nationwide alliance of patient advocates, dialysis professionals, providers and suppliers who work to improve the care of people with kidney failure (www.kidneycarepartners.org). In 2006, KCP collaborated with ANNA on ESRD Week, as did the DaVita Patient Citizens and WeKan, a patient activist group. Kuchta said the collaboration with these organizations expanded the campaign’s reach, and she expects an even greater response from legislators in the future.

About 20 million Americans suffer from kidney disease. Of those patients, over 400,000 experience kidney failure. The rising numbers of people with kidney disease, many of whom are minorities, is attributed in part to the country’s obesity epidemic, an alarming trend that has led to more cases of diabetes and high blood pressure. Both of these diseases are major contributors to kidney failure.

ESRD Education Week 2007 is slated for August 6-10. As in previous years, ANNA volunteers will accommodate legislators’ schedules and arrange visits throughout the year.

For more information about ESRD Week or to download the ESRD booklet, visit ANNA’s Web site, www.annanurse.org.


ANNA will advance nephrology nursing practice and positively influence outcomes for patients with kidney disease through advocacy, scholarship, and excellence.