Links chapter raising awareness of chronic kidney disease

Jan. 25—The local chapter of the Links, Inc., hopes to educate the community and raise awareness of a disease that disproportionately affects Black Americans.

The Brunswick chapter of the Links Inc. was selected by its national office to participate in the Black K.A.R.E — or Kindness, Awareness, Resources and Education — program, which aims to bring awareness and resources to communities to address chronic kidney disease among Blacks.

Black K.A.R.E. is an initiative funded by Baxter Healthcare, Corporation's Renal Business.

A disproportionate number of Blacks are affected by kidney disease compared to other adult groups in the country.

"Black Americans account for 13% of the U.S. population but account for 35% of the 37 million adults who are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease," said Jackie Bryant, Brunswick chapter president. "In Glynn County, the prevalence of chronic kidney disease is 22.9 per 100."

The Brunswick chapter was among 70 chapters in the U.S. to receive a $10,000 grant to implement the Black K.A.R.E program locally.

The Links plans to create enhanced partnerships with community organizations, faith-based entities and health care providers in Glynn County to offer new programs and to educate more residents about the issue.

"We applied for the opportunity once the information was sent out, and I just knew that receiving this grant from Baxter would be monumental to us in Glynn County because it will afford the chapter the ability to disseminate this critical information to the community," Bryant said.

Black Americans are four times more likely to experience kidney failures than White Americans, Bryant added.

The Links kicked off the initiative with an online event that included a discussion among local experts about kidney disease, its impacts and ways to prevent it. The conversation, titled "Keeping It Real About Kidneys," is available online on the Links chapter's Facebook and YouTube pages.

Dr. Colette Lee Lewis, a local nephrologist, Links member and coordinator of the Black K.A.R.E initiative, was the featured speaker, alongside a caregiver, a nurse, and a person on dialysis.

Members of the Links chapter also completed online training to learn more about chronic kidney disease and to explore a toolkit that provides education and resources for the community.

The Links will bring the Black KARE program to the upcoming First Friday celebration in downtown Brunswick on Feb. 3. They will set up a table in front of the Brunswick library, 208 Gloucester St., where they will distribute more information about the issue. They'll also have a mobile unit set up so passers-by can be tested for kidney disease on site.

The Links plans to have monthly programming for Black K.A,R.E through April. Local partners for the initiative are Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority, Community Health Services and Zion Baptist Church.

"We want to be able to bring awareness so that the community can make better life choices," Bryant said. "Sometimes it's just as simple as changing your diet. Sometimes it's hereditary ... It is a growing problem among the Black communities at this time."