April 24, 2017
Photo of women at a Kidney Sundays event
Chi Eta Phi Regional Director Juanita Hall (left) facilitating a Kidney Sundays event at her church where community members Idania White (center) and Ora Cooke (right) find lupus and kidney health resources.

People often turn to their places of worship for guidance on how to live better. This makes faith-based settings effective for providing relevant and reliable health information. Recently, the NIAMS joined forces with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc., to help community faith leaders raise awareness about lupus in their congregations. Kidney Sundays, is an annual outreach program aimed at bringing attention to kidney disease as a prevalent health issue in the African American community. The outreach program takes place in March during National Kidney month. "Although some people may have heard of lupus, many don’t know the symptoms or that it is a kidney-related disease" explained Priscilla Murphy, First Vice President of Chi Eta Phi, which is a professional organization for nurses dedicated to leadership and community service.

This initiative, sponsored by NIDDK in partnership with Chi Eta Phi and African American faith organizations nationwide, provides a unique opportunity for health education. Health professionals and educators talk to members of their community about healthier living, while offering free blood pressure checks and informational handouts. This year’s focus was on lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidney in people with lupus. Lupus also affects other vital organs in the body, such as the heart.

"Of the blood pressures taken at this church today, over half were above normal. In addition to counselling, many required follow-up which we are finding is not unusual for our health promotion activities," described Chi Eta Phi nurse Gwendylon Johnson. As someone who has been serving her community for over forty years, Ms. Johnson knows that health issues such as high blood pressure, kidney disease and lupus are not to be ignored. Lupus is most common in women, especially those in their childbearing years who are in the prime of their lives — raising families, going to school, and building careers. African American and Hispanic women tend to have more severe organ damage from lupus, especially to the kidneys. Lupus is also common in women of Asian and Native American descent. With symptoms such as fatigue, achy joints and sun sensitivity, lupus may look different for each person, making it difficult to diagnose.

Photo of a woman having blood pressure taken.
Community members Karen McDowell (left) and Janice Flemming (center) have their blood pressure read and converse with Chi Eta Phi nurse Gwendylon Johnson (right) at a recent Kidney Sundays event.

Knowing which health issues that race and ethnicity impact is important, and spreading that information could save lives. Finding resources to make this happen isn’t always easy, but without this knowledge, diseases like lupus can go undiagnosed. This is why community outreach programs such as Kidney Sundays exist, to bring valuable health information into the community when and where it counts. Raise awareness of lupus symptoms and encourage your community members to visit a health care provider if they think they may have lupus.

You don’t have to be an expert to be a kidney champion for your community. You can host your own Kidney Sundays event or activity during National Kidney Month, or any time of the year. For more information, visit the NIDDK’s National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP) site.

The mission of the NIAMS, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about the NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS website at https://www.niams.nih.gov.

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