Doctors call on black community to support kidney disease research

Emory and Morehouse medical researchers are among those helping to launch the $52-million African-American Study of Kidney Disease and Hyperten-sion (AASK), the largest study of its kind ever undertaken in the United States.

Announcement of the full-scale AASK trial comes on the heels of the successful completion of the one-year AASK pilot study, in which Atlanta researchers and volunteers also participated.

The Atlanta kidney disease experts leading the expanded trial include W. Dallas Hall, director of the Department of Medicine's Division of Hypertension in Emory's School of Medicine; and William Cleveland, assistant professor, Morehouse School of Medicine. The doctors cite the following facts, in justifying the need for such a study:

* According to the National Kidney Foundation, 38 percent of black Americans versus 29 percent of whites have high blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for kidney disease.

* African-Americans comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population, yet account for 29 percent of persons treated for kidney failure. Hardest hit are black persons aged 25 to 44, who are 20 times more likely than their white counterparts to develop hypertension-related kidney failure.

* While improved high blood pressure control has led to a decline in stroke and heart disease, kidney disease due to high blood pressure is increasing. In 1991, nearly 5,900 black Americans began treatment, probably dialysis, for hypertension-related kidney failure.

* The average annual cost of treating kidney failure (dialysis and transplantation) per person is $47,000. Medical care for black Americans with kidney failure attributed to high blood pressure costs federal, state and private insurers and patients approximately $1 billion.

AASK researchers are beginning to recruit African-Americans in the very early stages of kidney disease. Qualified study participants should have at least mild hypertension (high blood pressure), defined as blood pressure of 140 or more systolic and 95 or more diastolic (140/95).

For information, call 473-8500. -- Lorri Preston