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Why Organ Donations Are Lagging Behind in the Latinx Community

More than 111,000 people were awaiting  an organ donation in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Among the roughly 23,000 Hispanic patients waiting, less than 7,000 (29 percent) received an organ transplant, compared to almost 47 percent of white patients.

These numbers indicate the disproportionate impact of organ donation on minority communities, especially the Latinx community in the United States, which includes people from Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, South and Central America, and other Spanish-speaking countries. 

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is one of the highly prevalent diseases that is known to require organ transplantation. Diabetes is also common in the Latinx population, which increases the chances of kidney failure.

The most effective treatment of ESRD is kidney transplantation from a living donor, since live renal transplantation has been associated with a higher rate of patient survival due to better tissue grafting and restoration of health. Additionally, with live donation, the waiting time is reduced. However, in the United States, more than 60 percent of organs received from Hispanic patients are from deceased individuals.

According to the 2020 Annual Report of the United States Renal Data System, between 2017 and 2018, there was a 13.1 percent increase in the number of Latinx patients who were added to the waiting list for a kidney transplant due to ESRD, compared to 7.1 percent of non-Latinx patients. Additionally, Hispanic or Latinx patients were less likely to get a preemptive transplant than non-Hispanic patients. 

Here are some of the common factors related to a lower rate of living kidney donation:

Patients

One of the common misconceptions among living donors is the fear of impotence and infertility. Additionally, patients fear kidney donation might lead to a shorter lifespan and might require long-term medical care. 

Another critical factor is the language barrier that significantly affects the decision of donation by Latinx candidates. It also impacts  their access to necessary relevant health information. 

At times, patients are under the misconception that only close family members can act as donors; thus limiting their approach to other people of the community. Financial concerns also play a major role in this regard since the donors fear they might be unable to work or lose their job due to the long recovery period after donation.

Providers

Some of the major issues related to healthcare providers include the lack of specialized Hispanic healthcare providers who can take into account disease susceptibility based on the ethnic origin of the patients, rather than their current area residence. Other provider-related factors include lower rates of preemptive transplantation and referral for transplantation.

Healthcare system

A major healthcare system-related factor is the lack of specific language-based educational guidelines and programs. A study showed that people of Latinx origin had insufficient information regarding living donations and the impact on the health of the other kidney.

An effective strategy to deal with the above-mentioned issues is to organize culturally sensitive and language-inclusive patient educational sessions and programs, which would be instrumental in providing probable donors with relevant, fact-based data regarding the process of donation, as well as the associated emotional and financial factors. 

Additionally, an open Q&A session might be organized to help donors discuss any particular issue related to the process, such as religious approval, etc. Organizing such events at the transplant center could be helpful as it would give a large number of patients and respective family members access to the information. 

The mission of the George Lopez Foundation is to create positive, permanent change for underprivileged children, adults and military families confronting challenges in education and health, as well as increasing community awareness about kidney disease and organ donation. As we enter our 13th year, we continue to improve the quality of life for underprivileged families by giving them an opportunity for a brighter future.

To learn more about kidney disease and organ donation, visit www.georgelopezfoundation.org.

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