“This is how much sugar is in ONE 12 oz. can of soda,” Nancy Lepain, resident nurse practitioner, says as she holds up a large test tube full of sugar. Not far behind it is one cup of vanilla ice cream and a Hersey’s chocolate bar. People can really visualize how much sugar they consume when it’s actually in front of them, Lepain explains. The sugar is one of the many hands-on exhibits the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI) offers in its new KidneyMobile. Developed in 2005, this mobile (pictured below) allows their team to overcome barriers and literally drive healthcare to those communities of greatest need. The custom motor coach is a mobile educational exhibit and screening program that detects diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease, and we are thrilled to have it here locally to serve the South-Southwest Suburban communities. Thirty percent of patients initially screened need immediate treatment, an alarming statistic encountered by NKFI. But now, with the KidneyMobile, NKFI can connect these patients with local resources already established in their communities, even making appointments at local doctors’ offices and hospitals in extreme cases. On a personal tour, the South-Southwest Suburban United Way team experienced the interactive tools NKFI uses when engaging community members in prevention healthcare–needless to say, we will never look at a can of soda the same. Another point that touched home for our staff is the NKFI week of camp every summer for children suffering from kidney disease, where they are able to put their ailments aside and act like carefree, fun-loving kids. Since 1949, NKFI has adapted to address the evolving risks hypertension and type II diabetes now poses to communities. They also provide support for kidney patients and their families, continuing education programs for health care professionals, and patient advocacy to advance initiatives that directly affect the care and treatment of individuals living with chronic kidney disease. 2012 is a monumental year for NKFI because they have reached over 30,000 screenings since 2005, seeing more than 3,500 people each year. Setting aspirations even higher, Kate Grubbs O’Connor, CEO of NKFI, explains they are working on more precise data analysis that can clearly measure their community impact around the Chicagoland area. Giving a warm welcome and providing us with plenty of water to stay hydrated on a hot day, the NKFI staff gleamed with excitement while sharing the amazing work they do. Lepain put it simply, “I want a chance to give back to a community that has given so much to me”–something that resonates with us all. As a proud sponsor, South-Southwest Suburban United Way looks forward to seeing more outstanding results from NKFI and the KidneyMobile! For more information about the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois and the KidneyMobile, please visit www.kidneymobile.org or call 312.321.1500. Blog post submitted on behalf of Kristen Johnson, Fundraising Intern at South-Southwest Suburban United Way.
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