It is important during Black History Month to call attention to health inequities in organ donation and transplantation.  But it is more important to take this opportunity to focus our efforts and resources to helping solve these inequities.  Statistics from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) show that in 2020 African Americans/Blacks represented 13.4 percent of the overall U.S. population, but madeup 35 percent of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure and 32 percent of patients waiting for a kidney transplant.  The good news is the number of kidney transplants for Black recipients has increased 44 percent since 2014, but more needs to be done.

50,000 Organ Transplants by 2026 Campaign

These figures show a gap between the need for organ transplants in minority communities and the actual number of transplants performed. We, the organ donation and transplant community, can do better. This is why reducing health inequity is one of the pillars AOPO recently unveiled in its groundbreaking effort to reach 50,000 organ transplants annually by 2026. The goal represents a 50 percent increase over current annual figures and it sets AOPO on the path to complement and exceed the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS) expectation of 41,000 annual transplants during the same time period. This would amount to an additional 22 percent more organs transplanted beyond the CMS final rule benchmark set forth last year. This campaign focuses on improving the system, saving more lives and contains specific focus on reducing health inequity.

Reduce Health Inequity

To address health inequity in donation and transplantation, the AOPO campaign will:

  • Make health equity an OPO priority.
  • Use the recommendations from the AOPO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force to guide donation and transplant professionals to achieve fairness, equity and transparency in deceased donor organ procurement, allocation, and distribution.
  • Enhance and expand OPO cultural and implicit bias training.
  • Develop data-driven policies and support research to advance health equity in organ donation and transplantation.
  • Partner with external stakeholders to develop national outreach efforts for communities of color to encourage organ donation and to address concerns with organ donation and the healthcare system.

The campaign seeks to reduce health inequities as a primary initiative, including implementation of initiatives to expand collaboration, maximize organ utilization, and drive innovation and research. We recognize that organ procurement organizations (OPOs) are an integral part of a larger system and true success comes from OPOs, donor hospitals, transplant programs, and other stakeholders working together toward this common goal of increased organ transplants. We believe our campaign will challenge OPO members, as well as other stakeholders, to collaboratively improve overall system performance to save more lives.

We are in the process of meeting with key stakeholder groups to garner their support in this campaign, realizing that this effort will take collaboration by everyone involved in the organ donation and transplant process. Just in the first few days of the campaign, we are honored to be joined by the Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation (AMAT), North American Transplant Coordinators Organization (NATCO), National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI), and Donate Life Mississippi.  

As the true experts in organ donation and transplantation, it is important that AOPO and our partners lead this transformation. We are committed to closing the gap between the need for organ transplants in minority communities and the number of transplants performed, as well as to improving the organ donation and transplantation process to optimize every opportunity to pursue, recover, and transplant organs. By taking these steps to improve the system, we are honoring donors and donor families who made the selfless gift to donate and ensuring those waiting for a life-saving transplant receive organs as soon as possible.

I will share updates and milestones about the 50,000 Organ Transplants by 2026 Campaign as they arise. For more details, visit the AOPO campaign website.

Steve Miller, AOPO CEO

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