August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month (NMDAM), when we call attention to the gap between the number of organ donors and the number of African Americans, Latinx, and Asian Americans who need life-saving organs and tissues.
This is an important conversation to have, as important today as it was 25 years ago when NMDAM was first recognized as a single week in August. Throughout the 50-year history of Gift of Life Michigan, collaborating with communities of color to break down barriers to transplantation has been an important part of our ongoing mission to honor life through donation.
More recently, we have strengthened our focus on education about organ and tissue donation in the many multiethnic communities in our great state through our Let’s Talk initiative. We have reached out to and shared stories within those communities, listened to their concerns, engaged in dialogue, and tried to dispel common myths and misconceptions. Still, we know more needs to be done.
Currently, more than 100,000 people are waiting for a life-saving organ in the U.S. Of those, more than 60% represent racial and ethnic minorities. In Michigan, there are about 2,500 people waiting; of the 2,007 people waiting for a new kidney, nearly 900 are African American, Latinx, or of Middle Eastern descent.
Just as concerning, the National Kidney Foundation tells us African Americans are three times more likely than White Americans to have kidney failure, while Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely. Both groups tend to wait longer for life-saving organs, too.
These healthcare disparities highlight the continued need for education and outreach in our multiethnic communities and to encourage more people to sign up as donors. While it’s true that organs are not matched according to ethnicity and people of different races frequently match one another – you will find several such stories on our website, golm.org – all patients waiting for an organ transplant will have a better chance of a successful match if there are large numbers of donors with a similar ethnic background.
There are plenty of ways to help. Visit the Michigan Secretary of State website or our website, where you can find all the information you need, answers to your questions, read inspiring stories, and, of course, sign up to be a donor. Talk to and encourage your friends and, if you are a donor, make sure to let your family know.
A single donor can save up to eight lives and help as many as 75 more through tissue donation. Everyone who signs up represents hope for healing or a second chance at life for someone in need.
Gift of Life Michigan