May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and pay tribute to AAPI cultures. In recognition of these multiethnic communities, the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) plans to address organ donation inequity for AAPI donors, their families, and those waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. AOPO aims to improve AAPI donation rates and transplant outcomes in its campaign to reach 50,000 organ transplants by 2026.
As the organ donation and transplantation community, we can do more to support the Asian community. 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, with a 58 percent increase in Asian and Pacific Islander kidney transplants since 2014. While this is great news, much work remains to be done to ensure these numbers continue 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.
We are 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:
- Define diversity and inclusion for AOPO and its membership.
- Identify how AOPO can raise awareness of and foster diversity and inclusion within the OPO community.
- Determine how AOPO can instill diversity and inclusion on an ongoing basis within its programs and services.
- Develop data-driven metrics and policies by which OPOs and AOPO can gauge progress toward improving diversity and inclusion within the membership.
In addition, we 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.
Our 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. Only through outreach and building trust with communities will we initiate systemic change for both donation and transplantation.
Steve Miller, MBA, CAE