Knowledge is power: This is the concept behind Kidney Smart®. The award-winning program seeks to do just that: provide robust education so that people living with kidney disease can better manage their own health day-to-day and make informed choices if they progress to kidney failure.
This month, Kidney Smart® celebrates a milestone: More than 300,000 people have attended their classes, either in their communities or virtually, since 2012.
The classes cover what kidneys do to support overall health, what can put someone at risk for developing kidney disease, and how someone can think about managing their risk factors or — if diagnosed — kidney disease itself. While the information is geared toward people living with kidney disease or risk factors, often attendees include family members or friends of someone with kidney disease so they can feel better equipped to support kidney-health care and lifestyle.
Thousands of educators have provided education across the U.S. since the program started over 12 years ago — and helped make information accessible by conducting classes in more than 10 languages.
“Kidney disease affects certain populations more than others,” says Meghan Epps, a senior director of patient education at Kidney Smart. “For example, Hispanic Americans are twice as likely to experience kidney failure than people who are white and non-Hispanic. By enhancing class offerings to accommodate different languages and cultural lifestyles, we hope to make taking care of kidney health something that is accessible and manageable for everyone.”
American Diabetes Month: Understanding Your Risk for Kidney Disease
Kidney Smart classes seek to educate people on kidney health before they need a kidney transplant or dialysis.
While there are many things that can lead to kidney disease, the leading causes are diabetes and hypertension. For people managing either of these conditions, a Kidney Smart class can help them better understand both how their health conditions may affect their kidneys and how important it is to manage their other health concerns for better kidney health.
During American Diabetes Month — and throughout the year — Kidney Smart encourages people living with diabetes to learn more about how diabetes can affect other aspects of their health and find ways to protect their health.
Often, when someone finds out they or someone they know has kidney disease, they want to find more information: what kidney disease is, how to incorporate kidney-health nutrition and what they may need to consider if the disease progresses.
People who go through the initial class then have the option to pursue additional courses Kidney Smart offers, including a curriculum that provides information about home dialysis options to help people work with their treating nephrologist to determine the right treatment for them if they need dialysis. Classes like those available through Kidney Smart give people access to the information they need, and more than 8,600 providers have recommended Kidney Smart classes to patients since the program started.
“At DaVita, we want to raise awareness of kidney health across communities and make sure that when someone does receive a kidney disease diagnosis, they have access to information that can help them better understand what it means and what’s next,” Dr. Francesca Tentori, vice president of DaVita outcomes research and patient empowerment, says. “We encourage people in this situation to consider attending a Kidney Smart class, and we’re grateful to the physicians who have connected their patients with this resource. Based on feedback from participants, Kidney Smart has proven extremely helpful for people who were feeling overwhelmed and did not knowing how they can take care of themselves.”
Ultimately, the goal is to help people adopt kidney-healthy lifestyle choices, feel comfortable talking through care decisions with their nephrologist, and support their overall well-being. In 2022, a paper published in Kidney Medicine Journal showed that Kidney Smart education is associated with better outcomes for people with kidney disease who transitioned to dialysis. Patients who had attended a Kidney Smart class were more likely to start a home dialysis modality and experienced lower hospitalization rates compared with people who had not received structured education prior to kidney failure.
“Knowing the positive impact kidney health education can have on CKD patients’ lives makes us so excited and grateful that we’ve been able to reach 300,000 people through Kidney Smart,” Epps says. “As we continue to learn what questions people have, we look forward to evolving the program so we can reach more people and help them learn how to manage kidney disease while living the lives they love.”
 Outcomes data in image: Utilization of Home Dialysis and Permanent Vascular Access at Dialysis Initiation Following a Structured CKD Education Program: Utilization of Home Dialysis and Permanent Vascular Access at Dialysis Initiation Following a Structured CKD Education Program
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Kidney Disease in the United States, 2023. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/pdf/CKD-Factsheet-H.pdf