The first week in August was National Minority Donor Awareness Week. Although it has already passed, I feel that it’s extremely important to join in on this nationwide observance and help spread awareness of this issue because organ donation is an existing problem in New York State. About 10,500 New Yorkers are currently waiting for life-saving organ donations and minorities represent 64% of that list. Thirty-five percent of those on the New York organ donation waitlist are African American, 19% are Hispanic, and 9% are Asian. These numbers are saddening, but organs are not matched based on race and ethnicity, so why are minority organ donors needed?
Although matches are not based on a person’s race or ethnicity, there is still a large need for African American, Hispanic, and Asian organ donors. Donor and recipient matches are made based on blood types and tissue markers, which are more likely to match in people of the same ethnicity. Increasing diversity in the donor registry could also help find more matches and allow for more life saving transplants in the state.
In New York, the number or people on the donor waitlist compared to the number of donors are extremely disproportionate. Sixty percent of organ donors in 2013 were Caucasian, while only 36% of the waitlist were also Caucasian. On the other hand, 35% of the donor waitlist were African American, but only 16% of the donors in 2013 were African American. There is also a disparity among the types of organs needed by each ethnic group. Ninety-four percent of African Americans on the New York State organ transplant waitlist are in need of a kidney and 16% of Hispanics on the State organ transplant waitlist are in need of livers.
If you haven’t already, please visit https://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/patients/donation/organ/ to register on the New York State online registry and potentially save a life.
Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works