Unraveling the racial disparities associated with kidney disease

Kidney Int. 2005 Sep;68(3):914-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1755.2005.00485.x.


In the United States, chronic kidney disease (CKD), and in particular end-stage renal disease (ESRD), represent a growing problem. Many other countries also have an increasing number of ESRD cases. Racial/ethnic disparities have been documented globally in the prevalence, incidence, and treatment of CKD, most extensively in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, among others. In many circumstances, these disparities are of a negative nature, that is, certain racial/ethnic groups fare worse than their white counterparts with respect to the treatment or outcome of CKD. However, in a few circumstances, they are of a positive nature, such as the survival advantage seen in minorities with ESRD compared with whites. The reasons for racial disparities in the prevalence, incidence, and treatment of CKD are not fully understood, although they are explained partly by coexisting medical conditions and modifiable risk factors, such as socioeconomic, lifestyle, and cultural. It is likely, however, that the complete picture incorporates a complex interaction between these sociocultural, genetic, and environmental factors. In a global society that prides itself on a high level of sensitivity and equality, there is an ethical and moral imperative to address the continuing racial/ethnic disparities in CKD and many of the factors underlying this epidemic. We review data highlighting the racial/ethnic disparities that exist in the incidence and treatment of CKD, with particular emphasis on ESRD. A better understanding of both the negative and positive racial/ethnic disparities may yield important insights, which can inform future research strategies and improve health outcomes for all patients afflicted with CKD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / ethnology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Minority Groups*
  • Prevalence
  • Renal Dialysis / statistics & numerical data*