What Dialysis Patients Should Know about COVID-19


Esther Sciammarella is the Executive Director of the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition.

Name of the organization you represent. 

Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition

Tell us about your organization and the work you do there. 

The Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition’s mission is to promote healthy behavior and prevent chronic disease and health disparities in the Hispanic communities of Metropolitan Chicago. CHHC works to improve health outcomes in Hispanic communities by sponsoring culturally appropriate, evidence-based health education classes, and by providing a forum for policy development.

What communities do you serve? 

We service many different Chicago communities with a large Hispanic base. We have also extended our services to the west suburbs, particularly DuPage County, where there is a continuously growing Hispanic community with some health disparities.

What populations do you serve? 

Our concentration is on the Hispanic community, particularly the undocumented and newly immigrated population, but we share our services with many others. 

Why did you decide to join the Illinois Kidney Care Alliance? 

We decided to join the Alliance because it is essential for us to reach and educate the Hispanic community regarding the importance of kidney health and other chronic diseases that can potentially affect kidney health.  

What do you hope the Alliance  accomplishes? 

We would like to see the Alliance close the gap in kidney health disparities among the Hispanic population and help stress the importance of maintaining good kidney health in these communities.

What policy changes do those living with kidney disease need now? 

The Hispanic community needs to know what options are available to fit their needs. Our organization services many undocumented and Spanish-speaking only clients. Therefore, the policies need to include the what-ifs and resources available to them. For example: How can they get assistance if they require donations, and do they qualify for this? 

What can lawmakers do to help those with kidney disease? 

Lawmakers should provide more resource allocation for the Hispanic community and create more custom policies and procedures that concentrate on this population. Furthermore, it is imperative to have more representation/spokespeople spread information on how kidney disease affects Hispanics.

What is something most people don’t know about dialysis/kidney disease? 

Most people don’t know what resources are available to them regarding dialysis,  what alternatives are available, how they can seek outpatient services and transportation, and most importantly, they underestimate the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Lastly, many people are unaware of the consequences of having chronic disease (i.e., diabetes type II) that can lead to kidney failure and then dialysis.  

If you could share one story about the work you and your organization do, what would it be? 

We can proudly say that we have had many success stories of clients unaware of their health situation. We were able to assist them in receiving the care, education, and resources they needed to get back on a healthy track. We continue to stress the importance of health and maintaining health through different programs we offer to our Hispanic community

Through one of our programs (Door 2 Door), we met a client who required resources to continue his kidney health maintenance (he was a recent donation recipient). He was about to lose his insurance coverage through public health because he was turning of age and would no longer be covered.  Through our resources here in Chicago, we were able to refer him to the correct group, and they were able to assist him in getting new insurance coverage at no charge and continue his health maintenance. We are happy to know that he continues to do well, and he is no longer at any risk regarding his health at this time.

Any additional information you would like to share about your organization? 

We want to express our gratitude for your organization and all you do.  We will continue to conduct outreach and educate the Hispanic community to close the health disparity gap regarding self-awareness and self-maintenance and the importance of kidney health. We hope to stretch our resources further to other communities and counties around the Chicagoland area, especially those rural towns that are starting to see more Hispanic populations.