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AOPO Highlights Organ Inequity During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month; 50,000 Organ Transplants by 2026 Campaign Addresses Problem

McLean, VA., (May 18, 2021) – In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, today the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) announced its plans to address Asian and Pacific Islander organ donation inequity in its 50,000 Organ Transplants by 2026 Campaign.

“We, as the organ donation and transplantation community, can do more to support the Asian community,” says Joe Ferreira, AOPO President and CEO of the Nevada Donor Network. “We know that organ inequity is an issue in our minority communities and our goal to increase organ transplants will help address this. Asians suffer significantly from liver disease and hepatitis, conditions known to put patients at risk for organ failure. Asians make up 18.6 percent of the US population and 9 percent of the transplant waiting list, yet they made up only 6 percent of all transplant recipients in 2020. But the good news is that the number of kidney transplants from deceased donors has increased in minority groups overall, seeing a 58 percent increase in Asian and Pacific Islander kidney transplants since 2014. Our efforts will ensure that number continues to increase.”

Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group. Disparities in organ donation reflect the current state of larger social, economic, and political inequities. Communities of color are known to suffer greater disease burden but have less access to care, experience bias in healthcare settings, and have a higher level of distrust of the healthcare establishment. All these factors contribute to reduced access to life-saving organs for these communities.

AOPO is making health inequity an organ procurement organization (OPO) priority by providing valuable insight to guide development of a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all donor families, recipients, wait-listed individuals and OPO staff. Special emphasis will be given to sharing successful practices to better serve multicultural communities. Areas of focus include:

  1. Define diversity and inclusion for AOPO and its membership.
  2. Identify how AOPO can raise awareness of and foster diversity and inclusion within the OPO community.
  3. Determine how AOPO can instill diversity and inclusion on an ongoing basis within its programs and services.
  4. Develop data-driven metrics and policies by which OPOs and AOPO can gauge progress toward improving diversity and inclusion within the membership.

In addition, AOPO will work with the National Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Multicultural Action Group (NMAG), a partnership of organizations including the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation (AMAT), Donate Life America (DLA), National Kidney Foundation (NKF), and Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP)  to develop effective nationwide outreach and education programs for communities of color to create a positive culture for organ donation.

“The goal is to diversify the donor registry by educating communities about the donation process and encouraging people to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors,” says Steve Miller, AOPO CEO. “Only through outreach and building trust with communities will we initiate systemic change for both donation and transplantation.”

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