Blood pressure

UK’s first programme trains university students to tackle kidney disease and save lives

09 March 2022

The UK’s first programme for university students to check high blood pressure is being launched on World Kidney Day by London South Bank University (LSBU) to target chronic kidney disease and save lives. As high blood pressure can be a cause of kidney disease, LSBU healthcare students have been trained as Community Ambassadors to check people’s blood pressure and provide information on blood pressure, nutrition and exercise.

People of African or Caribbean heritage are five times more likely to develop kidney disease in the UK due to genetic factors so Ambassadors are going to particularly target African and Caribbean communities. LSBU has been working alongside Gift of Living Donation (GOLD), an organisation which helps raise awareness of living kidney donation in the Black community, to develop and deliver the programme.

The initial group of 15 LSBU Community Ambassadors are targeting the students and staff on LSBU’s campus at the launch event on 10 March and will then take their proactive work into their local London communities later in the year. The launch event is taking place at LSBU, Keyworth Road, London and the Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Barrie Hargrove will be attending. The event will see people who have experienced kidney disease sharing their stories and 'Afrobeats' interactive dance sessions will be taking place.

This is LSBU’s latest initiative to target kidney disease and reduce health inequalities. The University recently explored the feasibility of home urine testing using smartphones to detect kidney damage. It found that over a third (37%) of people with diabetes who completed a home urine test were found to have abnormal protein levels in their urine, a sign of kidney disease. LSBU also launched a project last year to train barbers to measure and give advice about blood pressure to their customers. The scheme trained eight barbershops with customers from Croydon to provide on-the-spot blood pressure checks and provide health information.

Professor Nicola Thomas, LSBU’s Professor of Kidney Care, said: “We’re delighted to be the first UK university to provide opportunities for our students to become Community Ambassadors for high blood pressure. The students have been fantastic and are passionate about ensuring that as many people as possible know their (blood pressure) numbers. Chronic kidney disease affects over 300,000 Londoners, particularly those from African or Caribbean communities, so this programme has the potential to protect many people’s health.”