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World Kidney Day opens conversation on a growing health issue

15 March 2016 - 1:51pm

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an issue that is putting a huge burden on the health system. The organs are specialists at keeping the bloodstream clean of toxins, and also produce various hormones that we need each and every day.

And yet kidney damage and reduced kidney function - two health issues that categorise CKD - are becoming more prevalent in Australia, and more expensive to treat.

16 per cent of people could have at least one indicator of kidney disease.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) explains that dialysis - a procedure to clean the bloodstream in lieu of the patient's damaged kidneys - is three times more common today than it was in 1991. 

In fact, one in seven hospitalisations in Australia are for dialysis, as an increasing number of people seek the most popular treatment for a growing health problem. The burden placed on the public health system becomes apparent when we consider that two-thirds of all expenditure on CKD treatment is for dialysis, with the other main option for people with kidney failure being the even more expensive route of getting a transplant.

With more than half of all Australians having private health insurance, there is a reduced burden on the public healthcare system than you would otherwise find. However, there is a risk that more people will shun private health insurance as it becomes more expensive each year.

We've discussed ways for private health insurance customers to reduce their premiums, and hopefully public facilities won't be placed under too much pressure from a pertinent issue. If you're looking at taking out health insurance, and want to understand some of the most notable health risks in Australia, kidney disease is certainly worth a closer look.

As March 10 is officially World Kidney Day, now makes for the perfect time to learn a little more about two vital organs.

kidney disease, dialysis, kidney transplant, private health insuranceDialysis and transplants are the most common forms of treatment.

How common is chronic kidney disease?

In the face of cancer and heart problems, perhaps chronic kidney disease is not given too much consideration as a major health risk in Australia and around the world - but the facts show that it should be.

  • AIHW studies suggest that 16 per cent of people could have at least one indicator of kidney disease
  • One in 10 deaths in Australia are due to CKD-related problems - around 13,000 per year
  • One in three Australians over the age of 25 have high blood pressure - a "key risk factor" for CKD
  • One in 25 have diabetes - another major cause of end-stage kidney failure
  • 30 per cent of over 65s have CKD in the later stages
  • Men are 1.7 times more likely to have CKD than women

Kidney disease, health insurance, Australia's biggest health risksProfessionals are calling for a focus on kidney disease.

How much does it cost our hospitals?

Using information from the Liverpool Hospital in Sydney, whose perspective was published in the Medical Journal, the Australian Medical Association unearthed some other worrying findings, including the rising cost for treatment.

"Australia's ageing population and growing prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and obesity had led to over 20,000 people having end-stage kidney disease and 1.7 million adults having indicators for the disease," AMA explained.

"The focus on chronic kidney disease must switch to prevention strategies if the huge economic burden of the disease is not to hit $12 billion by 2020."

"The focus on chronic kidney disease must switch to prevention strategies if the huge economic burden of the disease is not to hit $12 billion by 2020."

What does it mean for public healthcare?

Hospitals are under immense pressure to deliver the best possible level of healthcare with increasingly tighter budgets. This doesn't become any easier when illnesses that are expensive to treat become more prevalent.

It will be up to policymakers to see how we confront the growing risk of chronic diseases - and kidney disease could be seen as one of the most convincing cases for doing so.

Your health insurance needs

HICA is a team of health insurance brokers who help people compare and contrast their cover options. We offer a free service to individuals and families to find a policy that suits their budget and health-related needs.

Give us a call on 1300 44 22 01 if you'd like to chat to a professional.