Skip to main content
Publish date:

M Health Fairview won't use race as a factor of kidney health

The nationwide practice can make Black people's kidneys seem healthier than they are, which can lead to delays in people getting the treatment they need.

M Health Fairview will no longer use race as a determinant of kidney health, a practice that could make Black people's kidneys seem healthier than they may really be. 

The Minneapolis-based health care system made this announcement in a news release Tuesday, noting it comes following recommendations from a task force of physicians that convened in June 2020. 

Healthcare providers across the U.S. for decades have automatically adjusted the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) — a measurement of kidney health — based on a person's race, with Black people having one set of guidelines and non-Black people having another. 

M Health Fairview says "based on the incorrect assumption that race is biological" (race is a social construct — there is no common set of genes between all Black people or all white people, so race is not a biological attribute) this adjustment can make Black people's kidneys seem healthier than they are, which can lead to delays in getting advanced care and/or being listed for a kidney transplant. 

Here Stat News explains why the eGFR test has come under scrutiny:

"The test — which measures what’s known as estimated glomerular filtration rate, or eGFR — has historically considered four factors: age, gender, race, and levels of creatinine — the waste that kidneys filter out of blood. But the race of a patient can only be bucketed into two groups: Black, or not Black. That’s based on a flawed assumption that dates back to the formula’s creation, when medical experts presumed that Black people have higher muscle mass on average, leading to higher kidney function."

What this means is that Black people automatically have points added to their score for kidney function, making them less likely to qualify for a kidney transplant compared to non-Black patients.

"When we evaluated the effect of this practice on patient care, we found it at best, problematic,” said M Health Fairview Hospitalist Kristina Krohn, MD., who chaired the task force. “As we find a better way, we need to stop doing what we know is causing harm.”

Healthcare providers across the U.S. are reevaluating calculations like this, which is being driven by scientists, providers, medical students and the racial justice movement, M Health Fairview said. 

“Medicine has to reckon with its role in the process of justifying exploitation and oppression,” said M Health Fairview Internist Brooke Cunningham, MD, PhD, who was also a member of the task force. “We need to interrupt that legacy, and one way to do that is by interrogating the ideas grounding these calculators and algorithms. If the origin of the calculator is based on a biological construction of race, we need to change it.”  

The healthcare system will stop using the race-based eGFR adjustment in July.

Sign up: Subscribe to our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

M Health Fairview says removing the automatic adjustment is one example of its work to eliminate structural racism in healthcare, stemming from the creation of its Healing Opportunity, People and Equity (HOPE) Commission last summer. 

Internist and pediatrician Taj Mustapha, who was on the eGFR task force and is on the HOPE Commission said the healthcare system is taking a "critical look" at how it operates. 

“Reckoning with the inequities and flawed constructs that are embedded within healthcare and medicine will take time and work, and this is just one example of such work that is happening across the enterprise," Mustapha said. 

M Health Fairview is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Physicians and Fairview Health Services. It has 10 hospitals and 60 clinics. 

Next Up

Dalvin Cook

Report: Dalvin Cook has dislocated shoulder, will undergo MRI

The Vikings running back was carted off the field in Sunday's loss to the 49ers.

Kirk Cousins

Watch: Kirk Cousins lines up under guard on critical 4th down play

Kirk Cousins went "Full Kirk" at the worst possible time.

Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook injured, Vikings drop crucial game against 49ers

The Vikings couldn't stop the Niners' rushing attack in a 34-26 loss.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Man airlifted to a hospital after police shooting in Forest Lake

Police allege that the man presented a threat to officers.

Minnesota Wild

Wild's two third-period goals take down the Lightning

Ryan Hartman's go-ahead goal defeated the two-time defending champions.

Byron Buxton

Reports: Twins reach extension with Byron Buxton

The long-term deal locks in one of the Twins' franchise players.

Justin Jefferson

Vikings-49ers: 5 things you can count on

Sunday's matchup is a pivotal game in the NFC playoff picture.

Gopher Football

Watch: Gophers troll Badgers with 'Jump Around' after Saturday's win

First they took Paul Bunyan's Axe. Then they took their tradition.

Brandon Richart, missing person

Search underway for missing man in Anoka area

Brandon Richart was last seen Nov. 17.

U.S. Bank Stadium

5 teams win first state championships at Prep Bowl

A pair of records fell as the Prep Bowl lived up to the hype.


Fairview Southdale

M Health Fairview offering antibody tests at 6 locations without doctor's order

An antibody test can tell you whether you already had COVID-19.

Screen Shot 2020-10-02 at 9.49.09 AM

M Health Fairview implements chest X-rays to identify COVID-19

The X-ray is analyzed by an artificial intelligence algorithm, and it's already being used in Minnesota.

Testing Booth 1

M Health Fairview uses glass testing booth to conserve PPE

Health care providers swab patients from behind a glass barrier.


M Health Fairview closes drive-up COVID-19 testing centers

It comes after the Department of Health placed restrictions on who can get tested.

Ted Schweich

Community group hopes to install billboard to get neighbor a kidney

A group called "Team Ted" aims to raise $5,000 to find their friend a kidney donor.