I am passionate about using my position to advocate for the health disparities

1st of March, 2021

I am passionate about using my position to advocate for the health disparities

 John Kearns - Experience Story


John Kearns was first diagnosed with renal failure in 1984 when he was 20 and started dialysis in 1986. Six months later he was fortunate to receive his first transplant with a kidney donated by his eldest sister. Subsequently, John has needed two more transplants, with his third successful operation in 2015.  John is a keen advocate for his Muriwhenua iwi and wants to use his position to improve their situation.


I spent a total of eight and a half years on dialysis between my three transplants. The transplants  have enabled me to enjoy a far better quality of life and with my wife to enjoy bringing up three daughters, now adults, who now have three mokopuna themselves.

With the gift of transplants and maintaining my health, I have been able to devote time to helping others.

I now volunteer my time as a board member with Kidney Health New Zealand and the Kidney Society in Auckland, as well as being a consumer representative with the National Renal Transplant Leadership Team and recently the Australia New Zealand Society of Nephrologists. This is in conjunction with working as a ship broker.

I am passionate about using my position to advocate for the health disparities my whānau and Māori across Aotearoa, experience when accessing Renal health services.

My whakapapa goes back to the Muriwhenua iwi of Ngāti Kuri and Te Rarawa. I have whānau in the Far North, who travel up to 3 hours each way to attend dialysis. Dialysis usually entails six-hour treatments, three times a week which, on top of the long commute, is both physically and mentally demanding.

Once you’re on dialysis, the average life expectancy is only five years. Evidence further highlights that for Māori and Pasifika people, their life expectancy is less, even when geographical, socioeconomic and demographical factors are taken into account.

Over 68% of Māori and 76% of Pasifika people end up on dialysis because of diabetes. I am a firm believer that having more Māori and Pasifika representation at all levels is one way that we can address this issue.

I consider one of the keys to longevity is my active involvement in what happens with my health and educating myself to become ‘health literate’. This has allowed me to better understand the health issues I have faced. I always encourage people to become actively involved in their health.

I urge everyone to take a simple kidney health test, become aware of your health issues and how you can improve them.

I wouldn’t be alive today without the people who generously donated their kidneys to me.

People should discuss with their whānau if they want to donate, and make sure they take  the opportunity to make a difference.