A GLASGOW campaign to educate people from ethnic minorities about kidney disease is being extended across the UK.
The first health awareness project of its kind in the UK targeting the South Asian population in Glasgow found many were not aware of the risks.
People from black, Asian or minority ethnic origin account for more than a one in four of all patients on the kidney transplant waiting list.
However, they make up fewer than 3.5% of sign-ups to the Organ Donor Register.
Experts say kidney disease is reaching epidemic proportions in the UK, with more than three million people at risk from the condition.
The charity Kidney Research UK launched a Peer Education programme in Glasgow in 2010, working in tandem with the West of Scotland Regional Equality Council.
Peer educators from the same ethnic background were recruited to help spread the message about kidney health and boost numbers of the organ donation register.
Glasgow MSP Hanzala Malik, who is chairman of the West of Scotland Regional Equality Council, has suffered kidney problems.
The Equality Council held more than 20 events throughout Glasgow, helping people understand the risks they face and what steps they needed to take to reduce their risk of kidney disease – such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, avoiding excess salt and alcohol and having regular blood pressure checks.
In all, the project reached more than 4500 people from these 'at risk' communities, including Indian Jesuit and Malayalam communities never before reached in England.
Neerja Jain, health improvement projects manager for Kidney Research UK said: "The increased prevalence of kidney disease among South Asian communities is partly genetic predisposition and partly lifestyle factors.
"We have found South Asians are also less likely to acquire valuable health information about their risk of kidney disease from conventional sources, such as their GP.
"Our Peer Educator project was designed to combat this by approaching those people most at risk from kidney disease directly – providing them with vital health information through trained intermediaries of the same ethnic background.
"This model has been shown to yield positive results and is already being adapted to help improve organ donation rates among BME groups."
The project was funded by Glasgow-based Kwik-Fit Insurance Services and is now being extended to other parts of the UK.
The Evening Times is campaigning for an opt-out transplant system in Scotland to help drive up donation rates.
Mr Malik said: "The feedback from this exercise has been overwhelmingly positive. People have promised to take steps, including reducing salt intake and increasing exercise, which will benefit not only kidney health but overall wellbeing.
"As someone who has had two operations to remove kidney stones, I appreciate the importance of diet and exercise in preventing problems."
"We are working with Kidney Research UK to source funds to develop this work further. Thanks to the Peer Education programme we are continuing to spread the message through our services."