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Universal Kidney Dialysis: Challenges and Potential Solutions

Currently, more than 2 million people worldwide undergo recurring dialysis treatments to address their failing kidneys, in hopes that the treatment will help maintain their overall health and well-being. Despite this seemingly significant number, did you know that there are around 18 million people who require dialysis treatments but face challenges in accessing them? 

In this article, we’re examining what dialysis is and exploring some possible solutions for the pressing questions posed above, aiming to unravel this underlying healthcare disparity. 

What Is Dialysis—and Why Do So Many People Need It? 

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste from your blood. When they stop functioning properly due to acute kidney injury or kidney failure, dialysis helps to remove the waste that your kidneys cannot. 

Dialysis patients typically undergo their treatments at hospitals, dialysis centers or at home. During each session, blood is drawn from the body through an access area connected by a needle. Once withdrawn, the blood is filtered through a dialysis machine to remove harmful substances before being returned to the body. 

Without these treatments, individuals with kidney failure experience a buildup of toxins and potential fluid retention in the body. In such cases, they often exhibit a range of symptoms indicating deteriorating health, including decreased immune function and anemia. Over a period of days or weeks, this greatly increases their risk of death. 

What’s the Hold Up? Challenges for Ensuring Dialysis for All 

While producing a sufficient number of dialysis machines for all 20 million people in need is a monumental challenge, it’s not the only thing impeding universal dialysis treatment. Other obstacles include: 

  • Financial barriers
    The annual cost of dialysis varies considerably based on your location. In Cameroon, it averages around $1,560 per year, while in the Netherlands, it amounts to approximately $89,958 annually. In the United States, however, the annual cost depends on factors such as individual insurance status, type of dialysis received, and treatment frequency. Often, the financial burden surpasses what the individual undergoing treatments can afford, posing challenges in keeping up with payments. 
  • Geographic disparities
    Unfortunately, not every region in the world has an adequate number of dialysis treatment facilities or machines to treat patients. People who live in remote or underserved areas sometimes find difficulty in receiving treatments on time, often due to longer travel times, logistical challenges and economic struggles. 
  • Education and Awareness
    Sometimes, patients don’t receive information regarding the importance of early intervention and the health-related consequences that can result without treatment. This can lead many individuals to delay seeking medical assistance or foregoing treatment altogether. 

Potential Solutions: Making Dialysis Accessible to All 

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the infrastructure that improves dialysis availability. However, with solutions in place and people who work toward enacting them, the hope is that one day, treatments will be more readily available to those who need them.  

Below, we explore some of the possible strategies that healthcare providers and researchers can work toward implementing: 

  • Healthcare Policy Reform
    Physicians and healthcare workers can advocate for healthcare policies that support increased funding for renal care. This increases the likelihood that dialysis will be covered by insurance or government programs, alleviating the financial burden currently placed on many patients. 
  • Preventative Care
    There’s no time like the present to emphasize the importance of preventative care and early detection of kidney-related issues. With the help of public health campaigns and increased education, many people have the potential to better understand and monitor their kidney health before the need for dialysis becomes necessary. 
  • Research and Innovation
    Dialysis treatments began in 1945, prolonging and saving hundreds of thousands of lives since their inception. However, with a few innovative efforts from the scientific community, it may be possible to develop more cost-effective and accessible dialysis technologies, such as portable or home-based options. 
  • Advocacy and Public Support
    As an individual in the medical field, you can encourage advocacy efforts that raise public awareness and support for “dialysis for all.” Raise awareness by actively participating in community events, sharing informative resources, and being part of the collective voice that influences policymakers and drives the change you want to see. 

Change Starts With You: Forge Your Path at UF 

If you’re passionate about global kidney health, you’re not alone. At the University of Florida, we equip like-minded individuals who share that passion and aspire to build a career in cardiovascular and renal physiology.  

With an online Graduate Certificate in Medical Physiology specializing in Cardiovascular/Renal Physiology, you’ll gain a competitive advantage among students with similar goals, whether you’re preparing for the MCAT or applying to medical schools. 

Our online program consists of 12 credits and can be completed in as little as two semesters, or you can stretch them out to fit your busy schedule. That’s the beauty of being an online student. We afford you the flexibility to complete your work when it’s convenient to you, giving you the time to perfect your work-life balance while earning a top-tier graduate credential to add to your resume. 

When you’re ready to start your next chapter, complete your application and embark on a journey toward advancing your expertise in cardiovascular and renal physiology.