What Dialysis Patients Should Know about COVID-19


Jacqueline Burgess-Bishop, FACHE, is the CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI).

Name of the organization you represent.

National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI)

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

The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois’ mission is to improve the health and well-being of people at risk for or affected by kidney disease through prevention, education, and empowerment. I am honored to serve as the CEO of NKFI, responsible for leading the strategic operations of the organization with a phenomenal Board, our staff Team NKFI and partners to achieve results within a framework of equity and inclusivity.

What communities do you serve?

We serve communities within the state of Illinois.

What populations do you serve?

We serve persons at high risk and those directly affected by kidney disease. It is important to note that 1 in 3 persons are at risk for kidney disease and 1 in 7 adults are estimated to have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)and not be aware they have the condition. We provide education on kidney disease across the care continuum and promote kidney health to all populations. We target our KidneyMobile screenings in communities at higher risk for kidney disease which includes persons with diabetes, hypertension, a family history of kidney disease, and persons impacted by obesity. Our goal is to support earlier diagnosis to slow the progression of kidney disease. For persons diagnosed with advanced-stage kidney disease, we provide education and information on treatment options inclusive of receiving a kidney transplant to improve, sustain and extend lives. We know there are great challenges in achieving health equity. We also understand the impact that social determinants play here and why communities of color experience higher rates of kidney disease. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Blacks (African Americans) are nearly 4x more likely to have kidney failure, Latinos (Hispanics) are 1.3 times more likely Native Americans and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are nearly twice as likely to have kidney failure as Caucasian populations. NKFI works to address disparities and strives to achieve health equity for those impacted by kidney disease through our programs, advocacy, and research and in partnership and collaboration with other community-based organizations.

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

We joined the Illinois Kidney Care Alliance to amplify the voices for awareness of kidney disease and on behalf of the persons with lived experience with this critical chronic condition. There are opportunities through IKCA to impact persons with early CKD diagnosis through dialysis (in-center and home dialysis alternatives); as well as through transplantation (living donor and deceased donation) and to move kidney disease up the health care continuum and change the trajectory for kidney health.

What do you hope the alliance accomplishes?

Working directly with the alliance, we know that we can collaborate on key issues to make a difference in the range of opportunities available for those with CKD.

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

We continue to strive for the passage of the Illinois of the Living Donor Tax Credit Act proposed last year. There needs to be policy changes on the federal and state levels that support home dialysis treatment alternatives to provide persons with viable options for quality kidney care. We are encouraged by the new initiative for the Illinois Community Health Worker Advisory Board. The impact of kidney disease on mental health is an area of focus. In some cases, based upon successful legislative leadership and collaborative advocacy for policy change, we currently seek funding and activation (implementation) of legislation, inclusive of the Illinois Kidney Disease Prevention and Education Task Force. This legislation impacts persons living with kidney disease now as the education will also incorporate strategies for slowing the progression of kidney disease.

What can lawmakers do to help those with kidney disease?

We are actively working with our elected officials on a bipartisan basis to move these initiatives forward. We have a responsibility to consistently raise our amplified voices to make kidney disease the priority in legislation – it is based upon mortality, morbidity, cost, and the opportunity to impact all three factors.

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

Most people do not know that uncontrolled diabetes and uncontrolled hypertension are the leading causes of kidney diseases. They are not aware that 90% of persons at risk for chronic kidney disease are unaware of their high-risk status. They also do not know there are 5 stages of kidney disease.The opportunity to slow the progression of kidney disease is possible with diagnosis and intervention at earlier stages.

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

One story relates to our ability to share multiple stories of impact and inspiration arising from the intentional integration of our work with our KidneyMobile screenings, our community education and outreach events, advocacy initiatives, and our podcast, “The Journey Continues”. As an example, last weekend during an in-person community event, we engaged in conversation with a couple where the husband donated a kidney to his wife 15 years ago. They will soon share their story on our blog and on our podcast with over 5,000 downloads. Their story will encourage, inspire and provide insight for other persons considering living donation.

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

Yes! We have a NKFI Foundation Dietician available to provide renal nutrition consultations at no cost to the public. The dietician will be onsite at our 2022 Walk for Kidneys on June 12, 2022. Her services align with our NKFI campaign to promote “Kidney Health for Life “. We can be contacted at nkfi.org or via phone at 312-321-1500. Thank you to IKCA for this opportunity to share our kidney story to help change lives.