I carried out another research project, this time with my fellow students here at the University of Denver. I figured that, considering I didn’t know anything before starting this blog, many more people my age probably don’t know much either. This is significant because if people don’t understand kidney ailments, specifically chronic kidney disease and its many intricacies, they won’t know how to treat their friends or family members if they happen to get diagnosed (which is statistically very possible considering just how many Americans have CKD).
This was, again, not a very formal or scientific research study. My sample size wasn’t really random as it consisted mostly of my friends and those in my freshman-only dorm. Perhaps upperclassmen would have a different perspective and a different level of knowledge. Adding on to that, I only stuck to my campus rather than extending it to multiple, which could then be another issue in terms of diversity in viewpoint. I also only interviewed 20 people, some in small groups and some individually simply due to convenience. (e.g. a group of students was walking through the dorm when I ran up to them and suddenly started asking them questions) Some people may have replied differently based on the context of the situation, as in, students in groups may want to impress their friends with knowledge or may want to joke around. They can also piggyback off others’ ideas, making it difficult to pinpoint whether or not their responses reflect their level of knowledge.
I’ll admit that, though I tried to remain consistent, I didn’t always phrase the questions the same for everyone or gear conversation towards one thing or another. I mostly sat there, listening and taking notes on their ideas.
I expected that most students my age generally would know the basics, but not actually know much about CKD, but I was completely wrong! …They actually knew absolutely nothing.
When I asked “Do you know what CKD, chronic kidney disease, is?” I got responses ranging from “Huh” to “Uhhhh” to “I honestly have no idea what that is.” There were a few overconfident people in the bunch who tried to BS their way through, vaguely answering “It’s when the kidneys–uh, the kidneys are, uh–kinda messed up or something, right?” I guess they weren’t wrong, but I don’t think they were much right either.
There are always exceptions, however. For example, three people I asked (including my friends JJ and Sarina) answered more accurately. They were able to pinpoint that, yes, CKD is the gradual loss of kidney function, and one even knew that this leads to a transplant or dialysis. Sounds positive, right? There are some normal kids out there who know about kidney disease! The only problem is, they aren’t normal. They’re pre-med majors, which I’m not sure you can group with the rest of the bunch when looking at, you know, medical things.
So, college kids don’t really know much about kidney disease. I guess that makes sense. It isn’t much of a pressing issue unless you’re older or have someone you know living through it. I was thinking that my results would make perfect sense if none of these students had people they knew with kidney trouble, but five of them said they either had a family member or friend with some kind of kidney ailment. (I say ‘kidney ailment’ because since most of these students don’t know the difference between kidney stones and kidney disease, it’d be hard to tell what it is exactly.)
It’s hard to make conclusions with such little information and while taking into consideration all the constraints I mentioned previously, but I think it’s reasonable to say a few things:
1) Most young people don’t have even a clue as to what CKD entails, let alone any other kidney problem
2) Even those who have interacted with kidney patients don’t know much about dietary restrictions
3) Pre-med students know more about disease than non pre-med students
4) Those who didn’t know were really willing to learn
I find the last point the most interesting. College kids, notorious for being in a campus bubble, partying too hard, and using education as a facade for spending four years with friends, are pushing themselves to be better people, to be more accepting people. They wanted to know how CKD affects the body and what kind of nutrition works best for patients.
Though I can’t provide substantial evidence, I think this can be linked to our generation’s culture. We are connected to everyone and everything. We know about national or worldly tragedies seconds after they occur. This has created an inherent sense of compassion, desire for justice, and generosity. We are also known for being politically correct, as we want to understand and break down underlying oppressive structures. To me, it makes sense why so many want to learn. Nonetheless, it’s uplifting.