Inside The Senior Alliance: National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (Ep. 1.16)

In episode 16 of “Inside the Senior Alliance,” host Jason Maciejewski interviews Jodi Burke, Program Specialist II with the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM). Jason and Jodi discuss not only the work of the National Kidney Foundation but the services and programs that are offered in a joint partnership between the Senior Alliance and NKFM. Listen in to learn more.


Jason Maciejewski:(00:00)

Welcome to Inside the Senior Alliance, a podcast exploring resources and issues in the field of aging. I’m Jason Maciejewski, CEO of the Senior Alliance, the area agency on aging serving western and southern Wayne County. Joining me today is Jodi Burke from the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan to talk about health and wellness programs. Jodi, welcome to the podcast.

Jodi Burke: (00:19)

Thanks for having me.

Jason Maciejewski: (00:20)

It’s great to have you joining us today, Jodi. The National Kidney Foundation combats kidney disease but also addresses other health issues. Could you tell us about National Kidney Foundation’s mission and the work that your organization does?

Jodi Burke: (00:33)

Sure. Thanks, Jason. The mission of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, or NKFM, is to prevent kidney disease and improve the quality of life for those living with it. We were founded in 1955, and we are the largest National Kidney Foundation in the country. We have a statewide reach with offices in Detroit, in Ann Arbor, and in Grand Rapids. We have prevention and disease management programs and services that reach vulnerable populations at high risk for chronic conditions, including older adults living in Southeast Michigan. And we position our work in terms of thinking about preventing and delaying chronic kidney disease from a public health perspective. And to that point, more than 1 million Michigan adults, or approximately one in seven, have chronic kidney disease, and most don’t know it because people in early stages often don’t know that they have symptoms. The Kidney Foundation, therefore, really engages the community at the individual level all the way through policy level to prevent kidney disease and its leading causes, which are diabetes and hypertension.

Jason Maciejewski: (01:40)

I did not realize that the Michigan chapter was the largest National Kidney Foundation chapter in the country. Very interesting. How has the work of the National Kidney Foundation Michigan changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Jodi Burke: (01:53)

I have a couple of examples, and a huge success and a big shift for us was to pivot to delivering our programs and services remotely because of the pandemic. The Kidney Foundation was an early adopter of remote programs. When the pandemic shut down for all of our in-person activities in March of 2020, we were able to quickly adapt and identify what programs we could provide in a remote environment. The Kidney Foundation followed the guidance of program developers, the offices of services to the aging, and other field experts to determine what programs could be delivered in a remote format using platforms like Zoom. And then, of course, we had to become well versed in things like Zoom, which we didn’t even really use or know about until 2020. We developed processes for those remote deliveries and trained our leaders to facilitate. And then really another win was we began providing technical assistance to participants as they learned how to use online platforms. They were able to do that both with our programs, but also use that to connect with family members, friends, other parts of the community where online technology was being used for connection. The Kidney Foundation was able to start offering remote programs by June of 2020, and then also able to innovate with some of our fundraising events, like our walks and our Annual Kidney Ball, and were able to offer those remotely so that we could maintain connection with our individuals and organizations that participated. Just one other brief example is that we became involved in providing education about the COVID-19 and the flu vaccine and the importance of people who can get vaccinated doing so. So, we really took it upon ourselves to get involved in dispelling myths and encouraging vaccination among people with kidney disease and other vulnerable high-risk populations.

Jason Maciejewski: (03:48)

At the Senior Alliance, we really appreciated the speed that NKFM adapted to working remotely and by Zoom. As a partner of ours in these evidence-based programs, your ability to make that transition was really beneficial for so many people in our service area, so we thank you for doing that. Let’s talk about some of those evidence-based disease prevention programs and workshops. Some people refer to them as health and wellness programs. NKFN works with the Senior Alliance to conduct a variety of these workshops. What are the different workshops that you offer at NKFM in partnership with us at the Senior Alliance?

Jodi Burke: (04:24)

Well, we’ve been fortunate to offer a lot of these health and wellness or evidence-based programs in partnership with the Senior Alliance for over a decade. And through that timeframe, we have offered programs. One is the personal action towards health, or PATH program, which is a program for people that are managing any number of chronic health conditions. We have a matter of balance program, which is really a falls prevention program; enhanced fitness, which is a physical activity program. We’ve done the Walk with Ease program, which is held remotely so people could work on slowly increasing their physical activity from home. And then, a diabetes prevention program for people that are at risk or have pre-diabetes. And all of these programs that we’ve offered over the years are currently being offered in a Zoom or remote format but will return to in-person when conditions allow us to do so, and we’ll probably remain also in some version of a hybrid, so there’ll be Zoom and in-person.

Jason Maciejewski: (05:29)

These programs have a significant impact for so many people. Let’s get into some of them a little bit more. Let’s take the diabetes prevention program, for instance. What does that program entail and who would benefit from enrolling in it?

Jodi Burke: (05:41)

The diabetes prevention program is a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program for people with pre-diabetes and others at high risk, including those with obesity. It’s very effective in managing pre-diabetes. Participants reduce their risk for Type 2 diabetes by 58% and by 71% in those who are 60 and older. So, it’s very significant benefit. It’s a year-long program. It meets for one hour once per week for the first 16 weeks and then twice per month for about two months, and then it goes to monthly for the remainder of the year. During the program, trained lifestyle coaches, lead groups of approximately 15 to 20 people to encourage them to make healthy lifestyle changes with a focus on modest weight loss and increasing their physical activity. They include weekly food and physical activity tracking. Participants learn how to make lifestyle changes that fit within their own lives, with the support of their coach and a group of peers. And because it’s a year-long program, participants really have the time to incorporate lifestyle changes into their daily routines and get support from the group and the coach when they need it.

Jason Maciejewski: (06:52)

We’re excited to partner with you on the diabetes prevention program. It’s something that our Board of Directors was really interested in it when we agreed to fund that a few years ago, so thank you for your work on that. There’s another suite of programs under that acronym PATH that you mentioned earlier—personal action towards health. It’s a workshop series that we’ve offered through the Senior Alliance for a long time. Take me through what someone experiences going through those PATH sessions.

Jodi Burke: (07:18)

You’re right, Jason. The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan has been offering PATH and so is the senior Alliance for many years, and we’ve been offering it since about 2008. The PATH program is the chronic disease self-management program originally developed at Stanford University, designed for adults with chronic health conditions or their caregivers. When a participant takes the program, they gain knowledge and skills to take a more active role in managing their health and increasing the confidence in handling the symptoms of their chronic conditions. PATH is facilitated by two trained leaders, and one or both of them have chronic conditions themselves, so they’re very relatable to the subject matter and to the participants. Participants who take the program are going to experience a supportive environment where a group of 12 to 15 people meet once per week for six weeks in two and a half hour sessions. They’ve guided discussions on topics, including healthy eating, increasing physical activity, managing their emotions, communication, problem, solving, managing medications, and working with the healthcare team. Individuals create practical and achievable weekly goals through action planning. So, for example, if my goal was to improve fitness, and let’s say I wanted to walk more, an action plan could be walking outside for 30 minutes in the morning three days a week, or it could be to go to the shoe store and buy a new pair of supportive walking shoes. The goal is really to be effective in moving towards your goal every single week through action planning. And the groups bond throughout the six weeks over shared experiences of living with chronic health conditions or being a caregiver for a loved one. The workshops provide a space for people to share openly about their daily ups and downs of having a chronic health condition and to support one another when they’re going through similar challenges. I think it really helps people feel connected and they realize that they’re not alone in the process. And you were right when you said there are several versions of PATH within the suite. They each focus on building participant skills, knowledge, and self-confidence. So the general path program is for anyone with any ongoing health condition. We call it “condition neutral” because it really focuses on managing symptoms. The diabetes PATH program is for people with diabetes, and it goes into more detail about topics like monitoring blood sugar and meal planning. There’s a chronic pain PATH program that is for those living with chronic pain and covers topics like techniques to manage pain and appropriate use of medication. and a kidney PATH program for those with kidney disease that includes the general PATH program and two additional sessions to discuss how to keep your kidneys healthy and understand treatment options for people with kidney failure.

Jason Maciejewski: (10:05)

Thanks for taking us through the PATH suite of workshops. They’ve been really beneficial for us as an agency to be able to offer in our service area. We know that falls are a major issue for older adults that can lead to many other life changes as a result of a fall. We’ve had a long-standing partnership on offering another workshop called Matter of Balance. And what can someone expect from enrolling in that particular workshop?

Jodi Burke: (10:29)

Yeah, so a Matter of Balance program is designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity in older adults who have concerns for falls. It can benefit those individuals who may have sustained a fall in the past, or that restrict their activities because of concerns about falls, and older adults who are interested in just improving their flexibility, balance, and strength. So, somebody who takes the program will find that they are going through an eight-week long program that meets for two hours once a week with a group of eight to 12 participants and two trained coaches. Sessions help participants view falls and fears of falling as controllable. People set realistic goals for increasing their activity, and they look to change their environment to reduce fall risk factors and promote exercise to increase their strength and balance. During the seventh week of that program, a guest healthcare professional demonstrates for participants how to get up from a fall and answers participants’ questions. And earlier on in the program, participants do a home safety check and really look around their house to identify things in their environment that they could modify–rugs or low lit areas–so that they can feel more comfortable in their own environment, and maybe then want to be able to move more and exercise more. As a result of taking the program, participants report being more comfortable talking to others about their fear of falling, making those safety changes to their environment, increasing their physical activity, and feeling more certain that they can protect themselves if they fall. And similar to PATH, participants bond over shared experiences from having those fears of falls and experience with falls in the past. Workshops provide a space for able to share openly about their concerns and support others who may be experiencing similar challenges.

Jason Maciejewski: (12:18)

Yeah. We know Matter of Balance has made a difference for so many people. Thanks for going through the workshop. Enhanced Fitness is another popular class. Can you tell us how that one works?

Jodi Burke: (12:26)

Enhanced Fitness is a physical activity program that’s designed to improve functional fitness and overall wellbeing for older adults. The movements are low-impact and they can be adjusted to meet all fitness levels. Activity is done either seated or standing, and there’s not floor activities or jumping, so it’s really able to be worked in for anybody based on their fitness level. Classes are one-hour long. They’re held three days a week, and each class is led by a certified instructor and includes cardiovascular activities, strength, training, flexibility, and balance portions. Participants that enroll and attend regularly will experience great improvements in upper and lower body strength, in endurance, and they create social connections with other participants and their instructors because they’re there three times a week or very often, if they don’t come every day that it’s offered. And that’s especially helpful if somebody is still feeling more isolated, doesn’t have as many connections, this is a way to be active and get to know others. And participants also report that Enhanced Fitness has helped maintain or even helped them lose weight, as well as covering more easily from injury or surgery and procedures because their body is more fit. Enhanced. Fitness is currently provided in the remote environment, as are all of our other programs, but the remote Enhanced Fitness is slightly different, so I’m going to describe that. Participants would enroll in a workshop that’s 48 classes, so they’re each one-hour sessions, 16 weeks, three days a week. Workshops have 12 participants enrolled, and the instructor and participants then can safely exercise and see one another on a screen, so participants have to be able to have a screen where they can see the instructors. And then when we go back to in-person, Enhanced Fitness is held at community locations, senior centers, and recreation centers, and then it can be open to a larger number of people. So, historically, Enhanced Fitness averages 20 or more people per class, and the size of the class was based on the space size. That’s only different in a Zoom environment because we want to make sure that we can see everybody safely moving.

Jason Maciejewski: (14:36)

Jodi, you’ve given us a lot of great information today about the programs that the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan is offering. Could you share a story with us about one of the people that have participated and benefited from being in one of these programs?

Jodi Burke: (14:49)

Yeah. I have a testimonial to share from a participant that went through one of our PATH programs, though I think her information could be applied to any of our programs that we offer. So, I’m gonna read her quote: “I was made aware of ways to live a healthy life and function at our best, regardless of the physical or emotional challenges we’re facing. This includes diet, exercise, stress, relaxation techniques, sleep, problem-solving, goal setting, and more. I’m feeling very appreciative of this class. I look forward to continuing to make a positive impact on my health. At 76, I continue to have a lot to learn. I highly recommend this class and the other remote programs as a way to improve one’s health. Thank you to all involved in offering the program.”

Jason Maciejewski: (15:36)

And thank you for sharing that story. If people have questions about workshops or services offered by NKFM or to register for one of the workshops, who should they contact?

Jodi Burke: (15:45):

So, there are a couple different ways people can reach out for more information. They can feel free to go to our website, which is—and that’s N for national, K for kidney, F for foundation, and M for michigan—.org. They can also contact me by email and it’s Or they can call our 800 number, which is 1-800-482-1455, and they can dial my extension, which is 2320.

Jason Maciejewski: (16:24)

Jodi, thank you for joining me on the podcast today.

Jodi Burke: (16:26)

Jason, thank you so much for the opportunity to join you and for the continued partnership with the Senior Alliance.

Jason Maciejewski: (16:32)

If you have questions about services or programs the Senior Alliance offers, you can call us at 1-800-815-1112, or email us at Information about our agency or the programs and services we offer can be found on our website, On Facebook, we can be located by searching for the Senior Alliance. And finally, our Twitter handle is @AAA1C. I’m Jason Maciejewski. Thank you for listening to this episode of Inside the Senior Alliance.

Categories: Podcasts