Changes in organ donation campaigns and organ allocation standards reportedly helped erase the discrepancy in African-American kidney replacement procedures in recent decades.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that African-Americans currently comprise about one-third of both transplant recipients and the transplant waiting list. In the 1990s, African-Americans accounted for more than one-third of the waiting list but received only one-fourth of transplants.
The numbers were helped by an increased number of available organs, a result of more living kidney donations, more healthy organs due to improved Hepatitis C treatments and more donation awareness, particularly among African-Americans.
But the paper noted that changes made by the nation’s organ allocation body also helped improve transplant numbers for African-Americans.
The United Network for Organ Sharing gradually eased requirements for matching tissue protein markers between donors and patients after doctors determined that close matches were not necessary. The change allowed more kidneys from Caucasian donors to be transplanted to patients from minority groups.
In addition, UNOS in 2014 began allowing patients to move up the transplant waiting list due to their time on dialysis — and not based on when they signed up for the list. The Inquirer noted that minorities frequently are not placed on the waiting list immediately after beginning dialysis treatments.
Although many problems remain — from a lack of available kidneys to racial disparities in both kidney disease and access to care — Jerry McCauley, the past chair of UNOS’ minority affairs committee, hailed the change.
“It’s been clear for many years that African-Americans don’t get transplanted as often as everyone else,” McCauley, who directs the nephrology division at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University, told the paper. “I’m happy to say that is no longer true.”