Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Port of Spain, March 13, 2013:
This year’s celebration of World Kidney Day bears special significance for the Ministry of Health and the National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) as this country reached a milestone 100th kidney transplant surgery in February.
Trinidad and Tobago boasts of being the only Caribbean country with legislation to allow transplants to be performed as well as a sustainable programme funded by the Government.
Minister of Health, Dr. Fuad Khan, stated that “Trinidad and Tobago is in a great position to develop a sustainable deceased organ donor network.” He added “we have trained human resources and hospitals with the structure and facilities already in place for organ transplantation. We recently concluded additional training for 30 medical personnel to strengthen at a national level the already established deceased donation system at the San Fernando and Port of Spain General Hospitals. This training will directly impact the lives of hundreds of patients who undergo dialysis in Trinidad and Tobago.”
The campaign theme for World Kidney Day 2013 is Kidneys for Life – Stop Kidney Attack! The mission focuses on raising awareness of the importance of the kidneys to a person’s overall health. World Kidney Day also aims to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are key risk factors for chronic kidney disease. It is estimated that one in every eight adults in Trinidad and Tobago has diabetes. Statistics show that this country also holds the unenviable record of one of the highest mortality rates in Latin America and the Caribbean for diabetes, a mortality rate that is approximately 10 times higher than the USA or Canada.
However, Minister Khan points out that once detected early, chronic kidney disease can be treated. In fact, the Ministry of Health recently embarked on a Fight the Fat wellness programme which promotes and encourages all citizens, from primary school aged children to adults, to be screened for the main risk factors of chronic diseases. Free screenings, including blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index are provided at heath centres throughout the country. Through this initiative, persons found to be at risk can receive the necessary guidance and education to achieve the recommended target value for these health indicators.
Additionally, with the help of the Regional Health Authorities and the Vertical Services, the Ministry has intensified its outreach programme through mobile units, educational lectures, demonstrations and health fairs. This will assist persons to keep healthy and ultimately reduce the growing burden of death and disability from chronic diseases including renal and cardiovascular diseases.
World Kidney Day (WKD) is held each year to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys to our overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide. Every year, millions die prematurely of cardiovascular diseases linked to Chronic Kidney Diseases (CKD), globally. Common causes of CKD include inflammatory diseases of the kidney, infections, obstruction in the urinary tract and inherited disorders like polycystic kidney disease. But, in both developed and developing nations, diabetes and hypertension are becoming the most common causes of CKD, especially in older people. These are also the most common causes of cardiovascular disease.
Here in Trinidad and Tobago, a high proportion of the population already has the risk factors for developing chronic diseases, including diabetes:
- More than ½ the population (55.5%) 15 years and over are overweight or obese
- A quarter (25%) of school-aged children (5 – 18yrs) are overweight or obese
- Over 40% of the population do not get sufficient physical exercise weekly
- 90.8% eat less than the recommended five (5) servings of fruit and vegetable daily
- 50% of persons aged 24 – 64 years have three (3) or more risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs)
- There has been the emergence of CNCDs in our children and youth population
However, there are several easy ways to reduce the risk of developing kidney disease:
- Keep fit and active
- Keep regular control of your blood sugar level
- Monitor your blood pressure
- Eat healthy and keep a healthy weight
- Reduce salt intake to lower blood pressure
- Do not smoke
Screening should be a priority for persons considered to be at high risk for kidney disease, namely:
- Patients with diabetes mellitus and hypertension
- Individuals who are obese or smoke
- Individuals over 50 years of age
- Individuals with a family history of kidney disease, diabetes mellitus or hypertension
There are approximately 675 persons currently on dialysis in Trinidad and Tobago due to kidney failure. When a person’s kidneys fail, there are two treatment options - dialysis or organ transplantation. Having a person dependent on dialysis for life is not the optimum situation. In fact, kidney transplantation is the best option for a person to live a healthy and productive life.
However, to do more organ transplantation, Trinidad and Tobago needs a steady supply of donated organs. At the moment, organ supply is always less than demand, since only living donors are being used. To develop a vibrant organ transplantation network, a deceased donor supply has to be incorporated because every deceased donor can possibly help several persons at once. For instance, whereas a living donor can only give one (1) kidney, a deceased donor can give two (2) kidneys to help two (2) persons.
To become a donor, a person must:
- Be over the age of 18
- Be cleared medically, psychologically and socially to participate in this act
- Have a referral from his/her General Practitioner
The Ministry of Health urges all citizens to give the gift of life and become an organ donor. Talk to your family members today about becoming a donor. Persons can sign up to become a registered organ donor by calling 800-DONOR or by visiting the Health Ministry’s website, www.health.gov.tt.