As we kick off National Minority Donor Awareness Month, the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) is establishing an action plan and partnering with the National Multicultural Action Group (NMAG) to address the need for more organ, eye, and tissue donors within minority communities. We are pleased to see the gap is lessening but it is still significant for minorities who are disproportionately impacted by the organ shortage, making up 60 percent of patients waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.
Collaborating with other experts in organ donation to share best practices and how to implement strategies to reach diverse communities is one of the keys to the success of our 50K Organ Transplants by 2026 Campaign—which means more lives saved. We have seen improvements over the last five years from ongoing efforts by our organ procurement organization (OPO) members. Now our expanded work with NMAG to provide donation education and encourage donor registration will lead to even greater increases in minority organ donation and transplantation.
Through this collaboration, AOPO and other NMAG members will meet regularly to continue work on an action plan to address barriers to reaching minority communities. Other NMAG partners include the American Association of Tissue Banks, Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation, Donate Life America, Eye Bank Association of America, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program, and National Kidney Foundation.
The number one problem we see in transplantation is the gap between the demand for organ transplants and supply of donated organs, and the gap is more pronounced in minority communities. According to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), the waiting list currently stands at more than 100,000 with more than 60 percent representing racial and ethnic minorities. Even though a record number of nearly 40,000 people, including more than 18,000 racial and ethnic minorities, received the gift of life in 2020, an average of 20 people die every day waiting for a transplant.
We see increasing access to organ transplants within disadvantaged communities as imperative given the disproportionate need. While changes are occurring, we can and must do better for all the patients and their families waiting for a lifesaving transplant.
The good news is OPTN data shows that minority donation and transplantation increased from 2015 to 2020, growing 25 percent in the African American community, 38 percent in the Hispanic community, and nearly 36 percent in the Asian community. However, the need is great as African Americans are three times more likely than White Americans to have kidney failure and Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanics, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Also concerning is that the waiting list models by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients reveal that African American transplant candidates wait longer than non-Black transplant candidates for kidney, heart, and lung transplants.
AOPO’s 50K Campaign aligns with our mission to lead the nation’s organ donation community to save more lives. As part of it, AOPO and its members are working with key stakeholders toward a collective vision to pursue the day when every donation opportunity results in lives saved. This will be accomplished by implementing a series of initiatives, including its goal to reduce health inequities to improve accessibility of organ transplants in minority communities.
To learn more about organ, eye, and tissue donation and National Minority Donor Awareness Month, visit aopo.org/nmdam.
Steve Miller, MBA, CAE