The necessary dietary changes can also be difficult for AI/AN populations. For example, in rural Alaska, tap water may not be safe to drink, and soda costs less than bottled water. Fresh produce is expensive and has often begun to spoil by the time it reaches local stores. The Native villagers often prefer their usual diets of gathered berries, fish, and red meat from subsistence hunting, making implementation of dietary changes difficult.
However, as the success of the IHS initiative shows, challenges can be met and overcome by practitioners who see a need, formulate a solution individualized to the circumstance, and think outside the box. One of the keys is developing a trusting relationship with patients. Another is to recognize informational needs and utilize available resources to educate patients. For example, visual representations of kidney function tend to be helpful in explaining the nature and course of disease; the National Kidney Disease Education Program uses an illustration similar to a gas gauge to demonstrate glomerular filtration rate (which would otherwise seem abstract and hard to understand for some patients; see below).6 When you understand your patient population and their needs, it makes addressing the challenging aspects of health care and prevention easier.
The results that the IHS achieved should serve as an example for all Americans with diabetes and their health care providers. We must be open to delivery of care via different approaches and practitioners in order to successfully help patients of different backgrounds and circumstances. This is the individualization of care that we hear so much about.
In 2016, the costs of caring for the kidney failure population were greater than the entire budget of the NIH. By aggressively identifying and treating patients at risk for kidney failure, we can slow disease progression—saving society money, but more importantly allowing our patients many more years of life free from the constraints of dialysis. —MET, RB
Mandy E. Thompson, PA-C
Kidney Center of Denver Health
Robin Bassett, DNP
Nephrology and Hypertension Associates, Anchorage
Adjunct Professor, NP program, University of Alaska, Anchorage