“I have two super-strong kidneys, and they make me a superhero!” Clad in a distinctive red mask and blue cape, The Kidney Kid has been winning over kids around the world and making it fun for them to learn about an often-underestimated human organ: the kidneys.
(Published: June 2022)
Human kidneys are only the size of a fist and weigh no more than the typical smartphone, yet are mighty enough to perform vital bodily functions: They purify the blood by filtering toxins out, and produce important hormones. The Kidney Kid draws on these powers to perform all kinds of exploits, while teaching kids how to protect their kidneys. The “secret” formula: Drink lots of water, eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise.
The star of a Fresenius Medical Care education campaign, The Kidney Kid was “born” in Sydney, Australia, the creation of Dr. Alexandra Villar, Vice President Corporate Communications & Branding at Fresenius Medical Care Asia Pacific. The superhero’s mission: Make sure kids around the world understand the importance of kidney health.
“I wanted to create something that would excite children,” says Villar. She still enjoys seeing the young ones watch her The Kidney Kid videos, open-mouthed in excitement and anticipation. But was she surprised at how successful the campaign has been?
“I hoped for it,” Villar replies with a laugh. “I was pretty sure that the superhero was a good idea. But that it would reach so many children so quickly – that is a very nice reward.”
Villar wanted The Kidney Kid to reflect the diversity of peoples and cultures in Asia Pacific and be someone with whom the greatest possible number of children could identify. For this reason, the superhero comes as a boy or as a girl, in a range of skin tones, and can speak a number of different languages.
The Kidney Kid’s first mission was to Indonesia, where the campaign opened at the Muslimin Jaya orphanage in 2014. Since 2017 there have been appearances at primary schools across the vast Asia-Pacific region – from Australia to Pakistan, and from Indonesia to China. Fresenius Medical Care employees have helped organize these events, offering workbooks as well as sporting and other activities to help the kids learn healthy living habits that will protect their kidneys. And to reinforce the message when they are not in school, Villar and her team have developed comics and an interactive website with videos documenting The Kidney Kid’s adventures.
The Kidney Kid has already taken its message to more than 60,000 children.
Villar is especially proud of the app for smartphones and tablets. It shows a fictional town, Whippington, which is beset by a mysterious creature that has disabled sporting facilities and the water system. Kids playing the game take on the role of The Kidney Kid and, in various missions, collect water and fruit to strengthen their kidneys before helping the town’s residents.
It is not only children who are benefiting from what The Kidney Kid teaches about the kidneys. With their usual enthusiasm the kids can tell their siblings and parents about this super organ, raising awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and strengthening prevention – especially in families headed by adults with low health literacy.
As much as it’s a lot of fun, the campaign has a very serious background: When the kidneys no longer work properly, the consequences can be fatal. Chronic kidney disease usually reduces kidney function so gradually that many sufferers don’t recognize it at first. But when the kidneys completely fail or are reduced to working at only a fraction of their normal capacity, their function cannot be restored – and the patient may need dialysis.
This makes it vitally important to protect the kidneys – a message The Kidney Kid has already taken to more than 60,000 children in kindergartens, schools, orphanages and parks in Asia Pacific and the Americas. And to make sure more kids and parents around the world learn the importance of good kidney health, our superhero’s adventures have been reported in social media since World Kidney Day 2022.