Kidney disease in women: A call to action

To mark World Kidney Day and International Women’s Day, The George Institute for Global Health in collaboration with Arogya World held a panel discussion on Wednesday, 7th March 2018, to highlight the impact of kidney disease on women’s health and call for renewed efforts to improve maternal and fetal outcomes and women’s access to kidney care, as well as better prevention policies.

Chronic kidney disease is the 8th leading cause of mortality among women, causing more than 600,000 deaths a year.

A policy document, 'Kidney Disease in Women: A Call to Action', produced jointly by World Kidney Day and the Taskforce on Women and NCDs, was previewed at the event. Both The George Institute and Arogya World are members of the Taskforce.

The statement highlights current evidence and key challenges in the areas of kidney disease and maternal and child health, access to kidney care and prevention of kidney disease and sets out concrete policy recommendations to address these issues.

Prof Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of The George Institute India and President-Elect of the International Society of Nephrology, highlighted the burden of kidney disease and additional risks that women face to their kidney health, specifically during pregnancy. He said,

‘Pregnancy-related complications increase the risk of kidney disease. Women who have preeclampsia/eclampsia, for example, are 4 to 5 times more likely to have kidney failure. 

Dr Jha stressed on the need for increased awareness about the risks of kidney disease in women, early screening for high blood pressure, and better follow-up programs for patients diagnosed with kidney disease in pregnancy.

Dr Nalini Saligram, Founder and CEO of Arogya World, and former Co-chair of the Taskforce on Women and NCDs, shared a study by Arogya World, conducted in ten countries with 10,000 women on the impact of NCDs, which found that testing for chronic diseases was shockingly low among women. One third of the women according to the study, had never had their blood pressure checked, and half had never had their blood sugar tested. She said,

‘We urgently need targeted, gender-sensitive interventions and treatment that go beyond maternal and child health to tackle NCDs throughout the life-cycle of girls and women.'

A highlight of the event was a special address by Ms Aqeela Ahmed, a woman who has been living on dialysis for 15 years since developing chronic kidney disease during pregnancy. She described the challenges she faced in getting a proper diagnosis and accessing quality dialysis, and how she and her family dealt with financial and emotional challenges through the years. Stressing on the importnace and need for a support system, she said, 

‘My husband supported me and convinced me to think that getting dialysis done was akin to going to work every day. We just need to do it regularly and not skip any session’ 

Among the other speakers at the event were:

Dr Shalini Singh, Consultant, Community Processes, Comprehensive Primary Health Care, NHSRC. She spoke about the government’s efforts to roll out screening for NCDs;

Dr Bulbul Sood, Country Director for Jhpiego India, passionately advocated for addressing gestational diabetes among women;

Dr K.G. Santhya of Population Council, called for more data to inform policy and programs; and

Rohit Singh, Vice-President for Business Development at Nephroplus, discussed gender inequalities in access to dialysis.


How can you help?

Help us disseminate the policy document on Kidney Disease in Women to local governments and policy makers and circulate through social media