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September 7, 2022 – People living with chronic kidney disease (CKD), or its leading causes of diabetes and high blood pressure, are at greater risk for severe COVID-19 and its serious complications. A recent Johns Hopkins Medicine article mentions studies indicating that over 30 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 develop kidney injury. This highlights the importance of monitoring kidney health in people who have recovered from COVID-19. With more than one million people in Michigan with CKD, the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM) is dedicated to transforming kidney care and prevention across the state, particularly for those who were affected by or are at risk for COVID-19. For this effort, Michigan has allotted a portion of state funding from the federal American Rescue Plan to the NKFM for the fight against kidney disease. House Bill 5523 appropriated $14 million to establish the Morris Hood III CKD and COVID-19 Complications Prevention Initiative and named the NKFM as the fiduciary agent for the funds.  

CKD is common, serious, costly and often preventable. One in seven Michigan adults have the disease but most do not know it, as there are few symptoms in its early stages. Michigan Medicaid alone spends over 1 billion annually on CKD.

With this funding, the NKFM will work with partners from healthcare and community-based organizations to meet the multi-year initiative’s goals. It is a comprehensive and collaborative strategy focused on kidney disease and COVID-19 complications in communities and populations at greatest risk for health disparities. The Morris Hood initiative’s objectives are designed to transform kidney care by focusing on earlier identification and treatment of CKD. Additionally, addressing social determinants of health by working with hospitals, labs, insurers and physician offices will be key to reaching people where they are.

A major partner in this initiative is HHS Technology Group, a software and solutions company that will be responsible for data organization and evaluation. The initiative will ultimately provide an opportunity to help individuals with CKD or CKD risk factors, including past COVID-19 infection, to live healthier lives and avoid serious complications. With the help of HHS technology’s “Discover Your Data” platform, it can help doctors and health plans identify the patients needing CKD screening and management. This will provide a transformative opportunity to help prevent and manage CKD and COVID-19 complications.

The bill honors the late Morris W. Hood III, a former member of both the Michigan House and Senate. Hood had diabetes as a child, which later developed into kidney disease. As the recipient of a kidney transplant in 2016, Hood was an advocate for people with CKD, an ardent supporter of kidney disease awareness and prevention, and a long-time supporter of NKFM’s healthy living programs. He particularly loved the NKFM Regie’s Rainbow Adventure® program, which features a broccoli superhero who gets his superpowers from healthy foods and physical activity. Hood sometimes took Regie puppets to the Senate floor during Kidney Month to raise awareness. Hood died on May 11, 2020 from COVID complications. He was 54.

“This funding is crucial for managing kidney disease, which is a risk factor for COVID-19 and its complications, across Michigan,” states Linda Smith-Wheelock, NKFM President/CEO.  “This unique approach of using data to increase early identification, combined with appropriate treatment and support, will transform lives for years to come.”

For more information, visit nkfm.org/MorrisHood.

The late Morris Hood with 2 Regie puppets.