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FOR RELEASE: August 15 , 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Make Health A Family Reunion Affair
African-Americans Warned of Disease Risks

As African-American families across the state plan their family reunions this summer, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), along with the National Institutes of Health’s National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP), are encouraging them to talk about health issues- specifically diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. Each can greatly affect the health of African-Americans.

The OSDH urges African-Americans attending family reunions to reach out to relatives who have diabetes and/or high blood pressure, the leading causes of kidney disease. Diabetes and high blood pressure account for 70 percent of kidney failure. Also, African Americans are nearly four times more likely than Caucasians to develop kidney failure.

"Many people have family members with diabetes or high blood pressure, or both. Both diabetes and high blood pressure are diseases that have a family history of inheritance. That's why it is so important for families to talk about the conditions that can cause kidney disease, and help them understand there are steps they can take to protect their kidneys and long-term health," said OSDH Chronic Disease Service Chief, Adeline Yerkes.

According to a survey of Oklahoma’s health status in 2005, the occurrence of diabetes among African-Americans in Oklahoma was 11.4 percent, higher than the state average of 8.9 percent, but about the same as African-Americans nationwide. The survey also indicated that about 3 out of 10 African-Americans in Oklahoma have high blood pressure, which is slightly higher than the state’s average. Half of those who receive kidney dialysis have diabetes and one in five have high blood pressure.

The National Kidney Disease Education Program has created a free Kidney Connection Guide containing fact sheets about diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. The guide also contains sample approaches for distributing kidney disease information to family members and reunion attendees, conducting a 15 minute kidney health discussion and talking one-on-one with family members at risk for kidney disease. In addition, the guide encourages families to use the U.S. Surgeon General’s online tool, My Family Health Portrait, to trace illnesses suffered by parents, grandparents, and other relatives. To download a free copy or to receive more information about the NKDEP Kidney Connection Guide, visit www.nkdep.nih.gov/familyreunion .

“Diabetes and high blood pressure are especially common in African-American families. Family reunions offer a great opportunity for families to discuss these conditions and find out which family members may be suffering from them. It is also beneficial to educate other family members about the importance of testing for these serious conditions,” said Yerkes.

For more information about diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney disease call OSDH Chronic Disease Services at 405-271-4072.

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