Representatives of the First Nations Health Authority and the Can-SOLVE CKD Network this week signed a project charter formalizing the organizations’ partnership on a new initiative to improve kidney health in First Nations communities.
The agreement will facilitate collaboration on the British Columbia implementation of Kidney Check, a program that will bring kidney, diabetes, and blood pressure checks and care to rural and remote First Nations communities in five provinces.
“This is an important step in ensuring the health of First Nations communities through research that is informed by and responsive to Indigenous ways of knowing,” said Dr. Adeera Levin, co-lead of the Can-SOLVE CKD Network. “It is our vision that all Canadians with or at risk for kidney disease should have access to the best possible treatment and care, and this program will help realize this vision in partnership with First Nations communities.”
“An initiative such as Kidney Check is an excellent fit for our mandate of health promotion and disease prevention,” said Dr. Shannon McDonald, Acting Chief Medical Officer with the First Nations Health Authority. “We are very pleased to partner with the Can-SOLVE CKD Network not only because of their proactive approach to wellness, but also because they recognize the importance of working in collaboration with the Indigenous community and embedding cultural safety and humility in the delivery of health care services.”
Kidney Check is one of 18 projects undertaken by the Can-SOLVE CKD Network, a national patient-oriented research initiative funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and more than 30 partners. In partnership with patients, health researchers, health care providers, and policy-makers, Can-SOLVE CKD is working to close existing gaps in kidney disease knowledge and care to deliver better health outcomes for patients. The network’s 18 projects are organized around three themes identified through priority-setting discussions with kidney patients: earlier diagnosis, better treatments, and optimal care.
Kidney Check aims to promote earlier diagnosis by screening 4,000 individuals in First Nations communities across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. Mobile health care teams will travel to First Nations communities in these provinces or train health care professionals already working in those communities. They will look at the kidney health of individuals to identify health issues such as kidney disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure as early as possible. Anyone ages 10 and over can get checked and the process takes less than one hour.
If kidney disease is caught early there are a number of medical treatments that can potentially stop or delay its progression. The Kidney Check team will work with each person to build a kidney health plan that includes follow-up care or goals for keeping kidneys healthy. Individuals at higher risk of kidney failure will immediately be referred to kidney health clinics within health authority renal programs and the BC Renal Agency. Those at lower risk will be given culturally appropriate lifestyle and diet counseling and may be referred to local health care teams for follow-up. After the screening, feedback from the communities will be collected via interviews and focus groups to assess value, acceptance, quality of care and sustainability of the screening program.
First Nations patient partners have played a key role in the development of this initiative and will continue to be involved to ensure the work is relevant to communities and reaches those in need. One First Nations community per health region will be selected to participate in the Kidney Check initiative. A process for selection of communities will be established with support from the First Nations Health Directors Association and guidance from First Nations patient partners.
The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is the first province-wide health authority of its kind in Canada. The FNHA is responsible for planning, management, service delivery and funding of health programs, in partnership with First Nations communities in BC. For more information about the First Nations Health Authority, visit www.fnha.ca.