New research is showing the influence a neighborhood can have on the health of a person’s kidneys. Research specifically looked at the neighborhood’s socioeconomic status, including the education level of the population, walk-ability, violent crime rate and availability of healthy food.
Previous studies have looked at the association between socioeconomic situation and chronic kidney problems. But, there is not a great deal of information on how the characteristics of an individual’s neighborhood may influence the risk of poor renal health developing.
The kidneys filter the blood, removing wastes and toxins. This material is then expelled from the body through urine. When the kidneys function at reduced capacity or are no longer functioning, the patient has chronic kidney problems. These people then have to undergo routine hemodialysis several times
a week to remove these toxins. If they are allowed to build up, they can cause damage to other organs and even organ failure. Approximately 15% or 37 million people in the United States suffer from this condition with nine out of ten cases remaining undiagnosed.
One study looked at 23,692 adults in Philadelphia between 2016 and 2017. Researchers found those living in the lower socioeconomic neighborhoods were more likely to have kidney problems. They also found neighborhoods with poor walk-ability were also neighborhoods where residents had poor blood sugar control in those living with chronic kidney disease and poor blood pressure control in those without chronic kidney disease.
Further research reinforced this and showed neighborhoods which promoted physical activity allowed for good blood sugar and blood pressure management. It’s quite obvious from this study that there is a direct correlation between socioeconomic status and prevalence of chronic health issues, such as kidney disease.
The more widely-accessible food options in lower income areas are overwhelmingly processed, higher fat, higher sugar and higher sodium foods. Not having a safe place to walk or even enough time to exercise because of factors like having to work two jobs just to stay afloat, all contribute to a catch-22 that keep residents of these neighborhoods in a precarious position health wise. To some, the solution may seem simple enough, “just change your diet to organic, fresh produce, etc.” This, however, is not necessarily so simple for those who lack the economic resources to afford such overpriced items or who may be supporting multiple members of the household. It’s vital to approach every case with empathy and understanding of each unique situation and work within that framework to help rejuvenate health in a way that is attainable and maintainable.