Kidney Disease, a major concern in Belize Print E-mail
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Friday, 24 May 2019 00:00

The Taiwanese government, through the ICDF, is wrapping up a Capacity Building Project for the Prevention and Control of Chronic Renal Failure in Belize. The project, which is costing some 3.5 million U.S. dollars, is having a significant impact on how kidney disease is viewed and how the Ministry of Health in Belize is dealing with it.

Over the past three-and-a-half years, the project has done significant work in the area of kidney disease including capacity building, training of nurses and doctors as well as a national survey. The survey has been able to give interesting insight into kidney disease and has raised some concerns especially in the northern part of the country.

Yu-sen Peng is the project consultant and The Guardian got an opportunity to speak with him. He says he was tasked to provide an opinion on the survey as well as to make recommendations. Dr. Peng explains that while a direct cause for kidney disease cannot be determined, age, hypertension, diabetes and obesity play major roles in the problem. He added that some of the findings are alarming. For example, Belize has a 13.9% prevalence rate of kidney disease in the population between 20 to 55 years of age. In other parts of the world, the prevalence rate is between 10 to 11% and that rate also takes into consideration persons, who are older than 55 years of age. The study also shows that the Mestizo population in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts are most at risk. Dr. Peng says that this is cause for concern as it may be linked to the production of sugar cane in both these districts. While there is no substantiation, he says that similar trends have been observed in other countries like Honduras and Nicaragua where sugar cane is produced. The research done in Belize, however, is not conclusive and Dr. Peng says there needs to be further study to show the co-relation between kidney disease and sugar production. He adds that there may be other factors that are contributing to the problem such as the use of herbicides and pesticides in this industry.

While the northern districts may have the highest prevalence, the lowest was observed in the Toledo District among the Maya population. The Belize and Cayo districts have a medium to average prevalence rate. Other observations in the research show that females in Belize have a higher prevalence of obesity than men between the ages of 20 and 55 years of age with 60% being affected while only 30% of men being obese.

Dr. Peng says that among his recommendations are for the Ministry of Health to step up its kidney disease prevention and awareness in Corozal and Orange Walk. He added that intake of water needs to be increased and weight control programs be implemented countrywide. Other recommendations include that early screening at an early age be implemented as kidney disease is such that there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

Already the Ministry has taken on these recommendations with the most visible one being the increase of patients being attended to through the government-funded dialysis program.

Other areas of impact include the training for doctors and nurses in the care of kidney patients and also their training in dialysis management care techniques.

The program will conclude in August of this year.