SURROUNDED by TV cameras, lights, microphones and dozens of onlookers, Stan Kipling had his finger pricked for blood by a nurse on Wednesday.
Kipling, who is aboriginal and a Type 2 diabetes patient, underwent the simple procedure to demonstrate a new kidney-disease-screening program.
The $1.6-million federally funded project -- First Nations Community Based Screening to Improve Kidney Health and Dialysis -- will launch in March.
The project, co-led by Manitoba First Nations' Diabetes Integration Project and Manitoba Health's Manitoba Renal Program, provides early detection and treatment to several First Nations communities.
Detection of the disease in people as young as eight can take less than 15 minutes.
Kipling said he wishes the new program had been around when he was younger.
"I think it is great. I have a lot of family and friends living up north, and I see a lot of people having to move into the city and disrupt their lives because they have this disease."
Dr. Paul Komenda said even though 15 per cent of Manitobans are aboriginal, 35 per cent of the 1,400 patients receiving life-sustaining dialysis in Manitoba are aboriginals.
And of the 199 residents waiting for a kidney transplant, 35 per cent are aboriginal.
"This project is so important, because instead of spending resources on dialysis, we can focus on prevention," said Komenda.
"Chronic kidney disease, if caught early, is treatable and we can prevent, delay and improve outcomes on dialysis."
Komenda said poverty and poor access to primary and speciality care are reasons why First Nations people are more susceptible to kidney disease.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said industrial development has affected traditional food in reserves, causing residents to turn to soft drinks, unhealthy snacks and processed food, leading to high levels of obesity.
"We used to come from communities where every household had a garden, and people were eating fresh from the garden. That's not happening anymore," said Nepinak.
"As a result, we see an increase in the rate of diabetes and renal failure in our communities."
Nurses will travel to First Nations communities across Manitoba to administer blood and urine tests, in addition to educating patients on how to live healthier.