One in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people- an estimated 59,600 adults- are living with indicators of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) according to Kidney Health Australia.
Furthermore, Indigenous people are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to have indicators of the disease, and more than four times as likely to have stages 4-5 of the disease, which can result in dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant.
“I believe we’ve been at a crisis point for Indigenous kidney disease for quite a while,” says Anne Wilson, CEO of Kidney Health Australia.
“We need to establish a national taskforce that looks at all of the issues and then starts working through them systematically in order to have a whole of Australia approach, we can’t just look at one area or another.”
The report combines data drawn from the Australian and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplant Registry (ANZDATA) with previously unpublished data from the Australian Health Survey 2011-13, which captures information about the proportion of people with biomedical markers of the disease such as elevated protein in urine.
Kidney Australia says this is particularly important as the disease can often show little to no warning signs, with some patients losing 90 percent of their kidney function before getting any symptoms.
Among Indigenous people with indicators of the disease, around 90 percent are not even aware that they have it.
Ms Wilson says all Indigenous people who have never had their kidneys checked need to do so immediately.
“You need to go to your GP or to a community pharmacy or to your local Aboriginal medical service and you need to ask for a Kidney check- it’s simple, it's a urine test, it's a blood pressure check and it's a blood test,” says Ms Wilson.
“If you do that you will be able to either address your kidney disease and have it halted or you can slow progression of the disease to end stage in up to 50% of cases.”
The report also showed that Indigenous people living in remote areas are more than twice as likely to show indicators of CKD (34 percent compared with 13 percent)- with signs of CKD in the Northern Territory almost double the national average, at 32.4 percent.
NSW tops list of national hotspots
For the first time the annual report also highlighted the top twenty kidney disease hotspots around the nation, as determined by data collected within Medicare Local catchment areas.
The Illawarra and Shoalhaven region in the NSW south coast showed the highest proportion of people living with signs of chronic kidney disease, with one in five people in the area (45,000 people) showing signs.
NSW also came in second with nearly 17 percent of people in the inner west of Sydney showing signs of CKD.
Kidney Health Australia hopes these figures can be used to target kidney disease education, awareness and health services.
However this data only included urban and rural areas around the country, which strongly impacts the Northern Territory data.