MHA “strongly supports” the recent recommendation from the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) that calls for eliminating the current method of measuring kidney function due to the fact that it introduces racial bias into who may receive critical care, including transplants, to fight kidney disease.
At issue is the long-standing use of estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) equations to determine the health of a kidney. Factoring in a patient’s age, height, weight, and gender to a basic serum creatine test creates a number to assess kidney health; the higher the number the healthier the kidney. But based on a series of now discredited tests on a small population of Black patients, the medical community began factoring race into the eGFR equation. That resulted in Blacks automatically receiving a higher eGFR number, which indicated that their kidneys were healthier than they actually were. That, in turn, means that specialty nephrology care, including kidney transplants, is often deferred for Blacks because the racially biased eGFR test does not a give a true indication of their health.
NKF and ASN put together a task force in 2020 to study the issue, but even before the results were released last month, some hospitals and health systems – notably Mass General Brigham and Beth Israel Lahey Health in Massachusetts – removed race as a factor in kidney tests.
“MHA strongly supports the recent recommendations by the KNF and ASN taskforce regarding the removal of race as a factor for estimating kidney function,” said MHA’s Director of Health Equity Akriti Bhambi. “As our healthcare community is committed to equity and anti-racism, it is essential that racial bias be eliminated from clinical guidelines and practice.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also applauded the work of the taskforce and called on the healthcare system to immediately adopt its recommendations. But AG Healey went further, adding, “Beyond this kidney test, we need to take a hard look at other clinical tools that take patient race into account, as some may inappropriately steer patients of color away from needed care. We need the medical community to work together to quickly identify these tools, develop and vet appropriate alternatives, and ensure that no patient faces discrimination because of structural racism.” MHA supports Healey’s comments on this issue.