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African American Health

Organ Donation and Minorities

Transplantation issues disproportionately affect African Americans who comprise only 12% of the U.S. population yet make up over one-quarter of the 103,000 persons on the waiting list for organs and over one-half of those waiting for donated kidneys. 1,2 The situation is only made worse by very long wait times for organs to become available, and some never receive the organs they need. Despite the efforts of many individuals and organizations, organ donation rates remain quite low.

Why Minorities Are Overrepresented

The high percentage minorities represented in the organ waiting list is due to the fact that many of the conditions leading to the need for a transplant have higher rates among these groups. Conditions that commonly lead to the need for transplantation include:

Talk to Your Doctor

It is important to have this conversation with your doctor. There is sometime a lack of awareness of the true risk for organ failure, the challenges associated with waiting for an organ, and the maintenance required to keep an organ from being rejected by the body. The best thing you can do is help your mother avoid the need for a new organ entirely. Your mother's physician can help her to manage her diabetes in such a way that the damage to her kidneys is slowed down. A healthy lifestyle is important to not only maintaining current organ function, but in also preparing for donation.

Learning about diabetes and kidney failure may help your mother understand why she needs to do all the things her doctor asks of her such as: monitoring and controlling blood sugars, monitoring and controlling blood pressure, getting regular exercise and eating right.

National Minority Donor Awareness Day

August 1st is National Minority Donor Awareness Day. To learn more about what you can do, visit Donate Life America. Organ donation is not the only problem we face. Although there are more than 100,000 people of all ages, races, and religions in desperate need of life-saving organ transplants that may not come in time, hundreds of thousands more are in need of tissue transplants to restore their health, mobility, and sight.

To find out how to become a donor in your state visit http://www.donatelife.net/ or its Spanish companion website http://www.donevida.org/. 3

References

1. Annual Report of the U.S. Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network: Transplantation Data 2001-2002. August 27, 2004; http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/AR2004.exe. Accessed 09/01/04.

2. U.S. Census Bureau. American FactFinder: Race Alone or in Combination: 2000. Accessed 09/01/04.

3. PRNewswire-USNewswire, Minorities Account for 51% of the U.S. Transplant Waiting List, 07/30/09.

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Last Reviewed: Aug 26, 2009

J Daryl   Thornton, MD, MPH J Daryl Thornton, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University