AstraZeneca launches a fashion line that focuses on kidney health

Early detection is rare, but that is all the more reason to adjust your lifestyle and prevent kidney failure

Fashion 'collection' CKD is part of AstraZeneca's plans to raise awareness about chronic kidney disease. Photo: AstraZeneca
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Cameras flash, fashionistas gasp and designers scratch their heads as they puzzle over the genius in their midst. CKD, a new clothing line, dropped this year.

But as one sweeps through the bat wings and miniskirts, mentally assembling an #OOTD, or "outfit of the day", it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems.

“Looking glam isn’t the only reason to get fit,” declares one oversized clothing tag. “Healthy kidneys never go out of style,” insists another.

We are not kidding about the kidneys. Because CKD isn’t a fashion line, but rather an acronym for chronic kidney disease. The visionary behind the “collection” is pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca, which is focusing on the UAE’s fashion-conscious population as a way to raise awareness.

Fashion 'collection' CKD aims to target the UAE’s fashion-conscious population as a way to raise awareness about Chronic Kidney Disease. Photo: AstraZeneca

“We turned the silent disease of CKD into a brand like we see from fashion houses, to make people stop in their tracks and pay attention,” says Suzan Shuman, GCC business unit director of the cardiovascular, renal and metabolic unit at AstraZeneca.

Under the campaign, the pharma company teamed up with medical communications specialists McCann Health Dubai to dream up a distinctive movement that the “generally fashion-conscious people in the Emirates” would relate to.

A team of local designers was then commissioned to craft a collection from scratch, before displaying it to crowds during Expo 2020 Dubai.

“Each design was tagged with an important message,” says Shuman. “Visitors were given information about the disease and encouraged to schedule a screening at the earliest if they were in the risk category.”

One of the major challenges of CKD is patient awareness, with the majority of diagnoses occurring at a progressed stage, leading the team to take this unconventional approach.

“We had to share the story in an impactful manner across the city, so we focused our launch with a unique activation at the Expo 2020 Swedish pavilion on World Kidney Day,” says McCann Health's Mena general manager Karen Kamel.

“We have seen an encouraging rise of CKD screening and testing, which is ultimately the key success factor of our campaign.”

Lifestyle factors affecting kidney health

Kidney health is not something most of us think about too often, but according to Professor Marie Richards, director of renal services at Mubadala Health, it is a bigger problem than we might think.

“Kidney disease is common both worldwide and in the UAE, and affects about one in 10 adults,” she says. “The global burden is increasing, and CKD is projected to become the fifth most common cause of years of life lost globally by 2040.”

Kidney disease is referred to as a silent disease because many of the symptoms do not become apparent until ... kidney damage is already advanced
Dr Mustafa Ahmed, senior consultant nephrologist at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi

According to Dr Foroozan Khezri, a urologist at Medcare Hospital Al Safa in Dubai, your day-to-day habits could be putting you at risk, including everything from eating too much protein to not getting enough sleep.

“Many factors can affect your kidney health, including low water intake, high salt intake, high protein intake and even overusing painkillers,” she says.

“Dietary factors such as eating processed foods, high sugar intake and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also negatively affect kidney health.

“Other factors such as diabetes, smoking, lack of exercise and not getting enough sleep can heavily impact how effectively your kidneys function.”

Signs and symptoms

It is thought that patients can lose up to 90 per cent of kidney function before experiencing any symptoms of kidney failure, which makes early detection extremely difficult.

“Kidney disease is often referred to as a silent disease because many of the symptoms do not become apparent until the late stages, when kidney damage is already advanced,” says Dr Mustafa Ahmed, senior consultant nephrologist at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi.

“Later signs and symptoms include tiredness and fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle cramps, weight loss, itchy skin, passing urine more often than normal, a metallic taste in the mouth, bad breath, high blood pressure, blood and protein in the urine.”

Tips for boosting kidney function

Although detection can be problematic, there are plenty of ways to adjust your lifestyle to prevent kidney failure and stay healthy, say experts.

Khezri advises her patients to make small changes to their routine and aim for prevention rather than cure.

Day-to-day things you can do to promote kidney health include drinking enough water, lowering your salt and sugar intake, monitoring your weight and participating in regular physical activity.

“A few simple changes can make a huge difference, but the time to act is now.”

Updated: May 10, 2022, 6:57 AM