A new kidney screening program is available to Secwépemc community members in the Cariboo region thanks to a coordinated effort out of Three Corners Health Services Society in Williams Lake.
Five local community nurses have completed training to do the screening, which involves analyzing blood and urine samples and checking blood pressure levels.
“The goal is to diagnose early and educate our communities’ families,” said Three Corners executive director Lori Sellars. “Kidney health is so important. We want to identify those who are high risk.”
A partnership with First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) the Kidney Check project is part of the Canadian Seeking Solutions and Innovations to Overcome Chronic Kidney Disease that was initiated in 2016.
“It would have been completed already but because of COVID we were given a year extension,” said Catherine Turner, a senior research coordinator with FNHA.
Turner said part of the project, which is being delivered in B.C., Alberta and Manitoba, involves patient partners whose voices are just as relative as the researchers’ voices
In B.C. 16 communities were accepted to deliver the program and beforehand there is a visit to the host organization and the communities.
“It’s self-determined, nation-based and community-driven,” Turner said. “There is a standard in which to deliver the program but there is a bit of variation on how we plan to deliver it within each of those communities.”
Two years ago, Turner, a nurse, and a patient partner with a lived experience — meaning they have or maybe have a family member who has chronic kidney disease —visited Three Corners Health and the communities of Dog Creek, Canoe Creek and Sugarcane.
“We shared a meal with community members and we presented an overview of the project from various perspectives,” Turner said.
Now the program is being implemented.
All the data collected locally, stays locally, and the only information that goes further is the number of individual people that were screened and in what category they fell in, either no, low, medium or high risk.
Being screened early for kidney problems is crucial.
“You could lose up to 80 per cent of your kidney function without evening knowing it, which is why it is so important to get screened,” Turner said.
Health education is key, added Sellars, noting during the clinics other health questions may be asked that the nurses or KidneyCheck team can help answer.
People ages 10 and up are eligible to be screened although not many children have been screened so far.
Sellars said the statistics for kidney disease among the Indigenous population in Canada are “alarming.”
“It is one in 10 in Canada and one in three for Indigenous populations and I think that information alone is something we need to get out there.”
In the coming weeks Kidney Check will go to Williams Lake First Nation and Canoe Creek.
Sellars hopes it is an initiative that continues into the future as she thinks it is important to offer services with nurses who are known by the communities.
Turner said Dr. Adeera Levin, a professor of medicine, head of the division of nephrology – specialty in internal medicine that treat diseases of the kidneys and urine system – at the University of British Columbia, and executive director of the B.C. Provincial Renal Agency is the principle investigator for the Kidney Check project in B.C.