Local Official and Organizations Partner to Encourage Minorities to Join the State’s Donor Registry

Jul 26, 11 Local Official and Organizations Partner to Encourage Minorities to Join the State’s Donor Registry

August 1 is the 15th Anniversary of National Minority Donor Awareness Day

Minority populations in the United States, particularly African-Americans, are disproportionately affected by illnesses that can lead to the need for organ, tissue or eye transplants. In Illinois, nearly 5,000 people are on the organ transplant waiting list. 40 percent of these people are African-Americans, most of whom are waiting for a donor kidney.

Many of the conditions leading to the need for a transplant, such as diabetes and hypertension, occur with greater frequency among minority populations. National Minority Donor Awareness Day, observed annually on August 1, seeks to raise awareness of the urgent need for donors and transplants within the multicultural community. A secondary goal is to educate the public about donation facts and how to register their decision to donate life.

Together with Cook County Commissioner Robert B. Steele, representatives from Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network will host a press conference and donation drive on August 1 at Mount Sinai Hospital (Sinai Health System), which has a rich history of serving minority populations in Chicago. In November 2010, Commissioner Steele received a kidney from his sister after a 27-year battle with Type 2 Diabetes.

The local observance of National Minority Donor Awareness Day will encourage people of all minority groups—African-Americans, Latinos and others—to join the Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry and talk to their family members about their decision.

According to data from Donate Life America, minorities make up many of the people who receive organs but very few of those who donate. In 2010, 5,963 African-Americans received organ transplants, but only 2,089 African-Americans were donors. In the same year, 3,795 Latinos received an organ transplant, but only 1,953 Latinos were donors.

“Although ethnicity and race are not determining factor in donations, the success rates of transplants increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic and racial group,” said Jack Lynch, Director of Community Affairs for Gift of Hope. “Lower donation rates among minorities can result in longer waiting periods for transplants for minority organ recipients.” Currently, minorities make up 55 percent of the 111,000 people on the transplant waiting list in the United States.

To mark the 15th anniversary of National Minority Donor Awareness Day, established by former President Bill Clinton in 1996, Gift of Hope and Mount Sinai Hospital will plant a tree as a symbol of the gift of life. “A part of a tree can be planted to grow another tree,” said Lynch. “This is the case with organ, cornea and tissue donation, as well. When we die, we do not need our organs. But if we donate them, we give the gift of life to someone who still has the chance to live, grow and have a productive life.”

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network is proud to serve as the federally designated, not-for-profit organ procurement organization that coordinates organ and tissue donation and provides donor family services and public education in Illinois and northwest Indiana. Since 1986, Gift of Hope has coordinated donations that have saved the lives of more than 18,000 organ transplant recipients and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of tissue transplant recipients. As one of 58 organ procurement organizations that make up the nation’s organ and tissue donation system, Gift of Hope works with 180 hospitals and serves 12 million residents in its donation service area.

For more information about Gift of Hope and organ and tissue donation, please visit giftofhope.org. To join the Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry, Illinois residents can visit GiftofHope.org.

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