More and more Latinos are being diagnosed with kidney disease. In the last 20 years, the number of Latinos who experience kidney failure has grown by more than 70%. Photo credit: Matthew Henry / Burst

Latinos are 130% more likely to have kidney failure compared to non-Hispanic white people. That’s one statistic health advocacy organizations are hoping to change, as they launch new public awareness campaigns this National Kidney Month.

March 11 marks World Kidney Day, with kidney health being recognized throughout the month. This year, the National Kidney Foundation’s “Are You the 33%” campaign aims to highlight the connection between kidney disease and type 2 diabetes. Both diseases highly affect Latinos. The campaign strives to get people to take a one-minute quiz to find out if they are at risk of developing kidney disease.

“Most aren’t aware that having diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity or family history of kidney disease increases their risk of developing it,” said Latino actor, Wilmer Valderrama. “That is why I am proud to lend my voice to promoting awareness and early detection of kidney disease, especially in traditionally underserved communities.”

Valderrama shared his personal story involving at-risk family members at the eighth annual Kidney Patient Summit last week. The summit, hosted by the National Kidney Foundation, brought together more than 230 advocates from kidney organizations across the country to push Congressional lawmakers toward greater action on the disease.

Actor Wilmer Valderrama has a personal story when it comes to kidney disease. He uses it to push lawmakers toward eliminating barriers to kidney care. Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / Flickr

Meanwhile, the Texas Kidney Foundation launched its “Silent But Deadly” campaign, which aims to provide 10,000 at-home kidney screening kits for free. Organizers say they chose the campaign name “Silent But Deadly,” because the disease has no symptoms until it’s advanced. It’s estimated that one in nine Americans have the disease and don’t realize it.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease. One in 10 Latinos have diabetes, and that number is even higher when looking at Latinos age 45 and older: Four in 10 in that age range have diabetes. Meanwhile, 44% of Latinos age 20 and older have high blood pressure. Other risk factors, experts say, are diet, obesity and healthcare.

And in the time of coronavirus, kidney disease plays an even bigger factor. “Kidney disease is not only an underlying condition that adds complications for those who contract COVID-19, but COVID-19 also damages the kidneys,” said Tiffany Jones-Smith, CEO of Texas Kidney Foundation.

A new study out by Yale University researchers shows Latinos are at a higher risk of developing COVID-caused acute kidney injury. Latinos have already been adversely impacted by the coronavirus, making up 21% of all COVID cases in the U.S. and 18% of COVID-related deaths.

To help prevent kidney disease, experts say to eat a healthy diet, exercise, lose any necessary weight, stop smoking, and cut back on alcohol. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Experts say it’s important to be aware of one’s kidney health, because even those with mild cases of kidney disease experience high rates of hospitalization. Kidney care advocates recommend people get tested for kidney disease, as well as for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. They also suggest living a generally healthy lifestyle.

Some 108,000 people are currently on the kidney transplant waitlist, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Last year, 22,817 people received a kidney transplant. Seventeen patients on the transplant waitlist die each day.


Frank Morris Lopez (he/him/his) is the Arizona lead digital organizer and content creator for Pulso. He is an award-winning multimedia journalist, having worked for media outlets in the Phoenix and Boston areas. He was born and raised in Glendale, AZ, and lived in Cambridge, MA from 2011 to 2018 before returning to the Phoenix area. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ, and a master’s in social justice and human rights from Arizona State University.