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Grassroots programs to encourage minority organ donation prove successful
Date:6/2/2010

CHICAGO (June 2, 2010) Minority organ donations have more than doubled since the institution of grassroots awareness and education programs, according to a new retrospective study published in the May issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. In 2010, the percentage of minority donors is expected to reach 35 percent, up from approximately 15 percent in 1990.

Since the first organ transplant in 1954, the shortage of organ donors has historically been, and continues to be, the number one problem in transplantation. Organ shortages have been most acute among minorities, especially in the African American population. Organ shortage is an issue because minorities continue to constitute more than half of the patients on the kidney transplant waiting list (African Americans 34 percent, Hispanic/Latinos 18 percent, Asian 8 percent). In addition, it is estimated that each kidney donor provides $135,000 in medical cost savings per patient, a savings of more than $200 million that would be associated with a 35 percent minority donor rate.

An awareness of the scarcity of minority donors was the impetus for a grassroots program at Howard University in Washington, DC. In 1978, a group of 40 individuals were brought together to gain an understanding of why minorities were reluctant to become organ donors. Program leaders uncovered five key obstacles: 1) lack of awareness, 2) religious beliefs and misperceptions, 3) distrust of the medical community, 4) fear of premature death after signing a donor card, and 5) fear of racism. They also learned that face-to-face discussions with culturally sensitive and ethnically similar messengers helped overcome these obstacles.

"This research to uncover obstacles to organ donation helped serve as the basis for a local grassroots program in the Washington, DC area. It has now grown into a national initiative that is funded with $10 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a
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Contact: Sally Garneski
pressinquiry@facs.org
312-202-5409
Weber Shandwick Worldwide
Source:Eurekalert

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