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E-health programme to help kidney patients control salt intake

14 March 2013

The Dutch consume too much salt. That is bad for health, and particularly bad for people with kidney disease. Because a moderate salt intake is literally a matter of life and death for kidney patients, a smart e-health programme is being launched to help them monitor how much salt they consume. A programme with potential benefits for everyone.

It has long been known that it is good for our health to limit salt intake to 5-6 grams per day. This also leads to substantial savings in healthcare costs, mainly because it can prevent cardiovascular disease and stop kidney disease from progressing. In practice, however, few people manage to reduce their salt intake to a healthy level, mainly because the processed food we eat in our industrialized world contains large amounts of salt. Specialist guidance from a dietician is helpful but, due to cutbacks in the health sector, such intensive support is becoming less and less available.

Although a healthy salt intake is important for everyone, it is literally a matter of life and death for kidney patients. Controlling salt intake can postpone the need for dialysis and extend their lives. Unfortunately, most kidney patients do not manage to reduce the amount of salt in their diet to a healthy level. That is why a project is being launched involving an intelligent e-health programme to help kidney patients. The step-by-step programme helps them to adjust their eating habits, based on personal goals, direct feedback and advice from a coach. The programme is patient-centred; the care provider has only a coaching role. Patients receive support through the e-health programme, group meetings and contact with care providers. Patients can tell how much salt they have consumed by measuring the amount of salt in the urine. This will enable them to make changes leading to healthier eating patterns in the long term.

Because there are so many potential health benefits for kidney patients, they are the ideal group on which to focus in the development of the programme. But the programme is also designed to help other groups of patients in the future – for example people with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, or anyone who wants to eat healthily. The programme will be safely and responsibly integrated in standard health care. In order to ensure that health insurers cover the programme in their policies in future, evaluating cost effectiveness is a key part of the project. The costs will be carefully weighed against the health benefits for patients. The project is being funded by ZonMw (the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development) and Nierstichting Nederland (Dutch Kidney Foundation). The project is being carried out by researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen and the Leiden University Medical Center, together with the Nierpatiënten Vereniging Nederland (Netherlands Kidney Patients’ Association).

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.31 p.m.

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