Despite the fact that chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects more women than men, more men than women with CKD receive dialysis treatment and transplanted kidneys. Silvi Shah, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Nephrology, Kidney CARE Program at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and others like her hope to raise awareness of such disparities in women’s health. That is the main reason why this year, World Kidney Day (WKD) and International Women’s Day are being observed on the same day, Thursday, March 8. The 2018 WKD theme is "Kidneys and Women’s Health: Include, Value, Empower.”
"It’s very important for us to increase awareness and improve clinical outcomes in women with kidney disease,” says Shah. "If no one is advocating to eliminate these disparities, people won’t even realize that such problems exist.”
Worldwide, CKD affects one in 10 people, making it a global health problem. In the general population, CKD is one of the top 20 causes of mortality, but in women, it’s one of the top 10 causes of mortality.
"In the era of precision medicine or personalized medicine, it is imperative that we recognize and mitigate the gender disparity gap in our discovery as well as care delivery in treating kidney diseases,” says Charuhas Thakar, MD, professor and director of the Division of Nephrology, Kidney CARE Program in the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC College of Medicine. "Kidney issues such as acute kidney failure after cardiac surgery disproportionately affect women compared to men. Similar observations have been made in other spectrums of kidney disorders as well.”
Shah says CKD is particularly problematic for pregnant women.
"Women who have CKD are at increased risk for adverse outcomes in pregnancy, both for the mother and the baby; in turn, pregnancy-related complications can increase the risk of kidney disease,” says Shah. "It’s very important when a woman who has CKD or a kidney transplant gets pregnant she is followed by a multi-disciplinary team, including a gynecologist, a nephrologist and a neonatologist working together through the pregnancy.” Her research is also focused on pregnancy outcomes in women with kidney transplant and chronic kidney disease.
As part of her efforts to reduce the disparities between men and women on dialysis and receiving kidney transplants, Shah serves on the council the national organization Women in Nephrology, and on the Media and Communication Committee for the American Society of Nephrology (ASN). The two groups are collaborating for an hour-long Twitter chat on women’s health and kidney disease hosted by Shah at 9 p.m. EST Tuesday, March 6. The hashtag for the event is #askasn.
"We need to comprehensively address both the biological differences as well as the process of care or societal differences when diagnosing and treating our patients,” says Thakar. "Efforts of colleagues and peers in nephrology such as Dr. Shah are critical towards this cause.”
Globally, 600,000 women die of CKD each year, and Shah hopes that women can help lead the way in raising awareness of the severity of the issue and as a result, reduce those numbers.
"It’s very important for women to be in positions where they can talk about these disparities, otherwise they just get buried,” Shah says. "Women’s health is now being recognized worldwide, so more people are talking about it, which is a step in the right direction.”