The National Kidney Foundation has started a Heart Your Kidneys campaign to make people aware of how vital kidneys are to sustaining life.
The campaign, which started March 9, World Kidney Day, is aimed at millennials and other young people in particular.
Key goals are encouraging people to educate themselves about kidney function, and letting them know that simple lifestyle changes can reduce their risk of developing a kidney disease.
The National Kidney Foundation website lists campaign activities across the United States in March, which is National Kidney Month.
An estimated 26 million Americans have kidney disease without knowing it, experts say. Up to a third of the population could develop the disease in their lifetimes, they add.
Treatments such as dialysis or a transplant are challenging and expensive. Dialysis involves being hooked up to a machine to remove waste and excess water from the blood. It is time-consuming and limits the activities a patient can pursue.
When a person’s kidneys fail, the only option to keep them alive is a transplant.
“When it comes to vital organs, hearts get all the love. Kidneys get the short end of the stick,” Kevin Longino, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation, said in the news release. “But kidneys are essential to keeping you healthy—when your kidneys stop working, so do you.
“Trust me, I know,” added Longino, who received a kidney transplant 12 years ago.
One of the strategies the National Kidney Foundation will be using to build kidney awareness is piggybacking on other events.
At the Southwest by Southwest creative arts festival in Austin, Texas, for example, the foundation will introduce a “tech tattoo” that Northwestern University developed. The device monitors changes in hydration levels — the percentage of water in the body — when a person exercises. The festival covers film, music and interactive media.
The tattoo, which sticks to the skin, is a bit larger than a quarter and about as thick. It helps those exercising decide whether to drink more water or, if there appears to be a health problem, replenish electrolytes.
A tattoo exhibit at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library on March 9 featured famed tattoo artist Amanda Wachob tattooing a kidney donor.
Another innovation that will be rolled out at the Austin festival is Hidrate Spark 2.0, a water bottle that records how much water a person consumes and suggests a daily water goal. It syncs to Fitbit, Apple Watch, and other gadgets.
Many buildings and other structures nationwide turned orange on March 9 to mark World Kidney Day. They included the Empire State Building, the Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo, New York, and Fort Erie, Ontario, across Lake Erie, and Los Angeles International Airport’s pylons.
“As a 67-year-old organization, we’re trying to refresh our approach to reach a younger demographic which doesn’t realize how dangerous kidney disease can be,” Longino said. “Reaching new audiences in new ways is key to breaking through the noise and getting through to those at risk.”
The foundation’s campaign logo, tech tattoos, flash sheet for permanent tattoos, Hidrate Spark 2.0 water bottles, and awareness information can be found at heartyourkidneys.com.