The European Kidney Health Alliance (EKHA) and World Kidney Day (WKD) organisations today call for action at EU level to support early awareness, identification and treatment of CKD and its associated diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. The MEP Group for Kidney Health, launched on WKD last year, met at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today with an eminent panel of renal experts, politicians, and patient and kidney organisations. The meeting relayed the stark message that unchecked high blood pressure may severely damage the kidneys and is a major cause of CKD.

Speaking at the event, Professor Andrew Rees, Chairman of EKHA commented, Although, chronic kidney disease affects at least 10% of the European population, there is very little awareness of the problems it causes. EKHA was formed to increase understanding of the challenges posed by CKD and to promote effective public health strategies to fight what has been called Europe's silent epidemic.

Greater efforts to prevent CKD and to detect its earliest stages are needed to slow the progression of kidney disease to kidney failure and to prevent the complications it causes, including hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.(1) Conversely hypertension is an important cause of CKD. To support this event and the WKD 2009 'Keep the pressure down' campaign, a pan-European survey, sponsored by an educational grant from Amgen, was conducted among 486 people treated for cardiovascular disease. Worryingly, the survey showed that three quarters of patients (73%) with CVD -- most of whom have high blood pressure -- were unaware of their increased risk of CKD. Only half (47%) of those surveyed had had their kidney function checked by their physician and, most worrying of all, over 80% of those surveyed had had no discussion with their physician about the steps they could take to look after their kidneys.

Commenting on the results Professor Carmine Zoccali from the Institute of Biomedicine, Clinical Epidemiology and Physiopathology of Renal Diseases and Hypertension, Hospital Riuniti, Italy, added, These results are alarming, we need to act now to educate people with cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure to help minimise their risk of developing CKD. Simple measures and screening can help reduce the number of people needlessly suffering from CKD and its consequences which can severely impact on patients' health and quality of life.

In its most advanced stage CKD requires renal replacement therapy (RRT) with dialysis or transplantation. The current EU debate on organ donation and transplantation underlines the need to address the shortage of organs for transplantation. The European Parliament's official resolution on organ donation and transplantation recognises the importance not only of cooperation between Member States on addressing this shortage, but of the necessity for public health measures to facilitate the early detection and management of the chronic diseases such as CKD, and so prevent those affected from ever developing kidney failure. Preventative strategies are the only way to minimise the number of people needing organ transplants in the future.

Mrs. Frieda Brepoels MEP commented, I strongly believe the European Union can play a significant role in encouraging Member States to take urgent action to acknowledge the size of the problem of chronic kidney disease and high blood pressure and the other diseases linked to them, and to develop effective strategies to prevent the death and suffering they cause. Progress can be made by exchanging best practices between Member States and by improving existing technologies to detect kidney disease so as to assure that every European citizen has equal access to high-quality health care.

The link between CKD and CVD works both ways: hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases cause CKD and CKD causes hypertension and greatly increases the risk of developing other types of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, people with CKD are more likely to die of CVD than to develop kidney failure.(2) Increasing awareness of kidney disease is the first and perhaps most important step towards preventing kidney failure. The EKHA calls on the EU to use its authoritative voice to support National Governments in developing public health programs that acknowledge the importance of preventing CKD.

The EKHA event at the European Parliament, Strasbourg is supported by Amgen and HemoCue.

The European Kidney Health Alliance (EKHA) is an alliance of not-for-profit organisations that represent the key stakeholders in kidney health issues in Europe. EKHA member organisations are CEAPIR (European Kidney Patients' Federation), EDTNA/ERCA (European Dialysis and Transplant Nurses Association/European Renal Care Association), ERA-EDTA (European Renal Association - European Dialysis and Transplant Association), IFKF (International Federation of Kidney Foundations). More information at