Encouraging People of Color to Register as Organ Donors

African American man and woman looking at and typing on a laptop computer

The first week in August is National Minority Donor Awareness Week. According to the federal Office of Minority Health, the need for organ and tissue donors among minority community members is high—approximately 58 percent of all people waiting for transplants. Although race isn’t always a factor, often the best donor and recipient matches are people of the same race.

Aging and Disability Services is working in innovative ways to improve access to health care and community-based services for everyone (e.g., our Primary Care Liaison position and partnership with the Northwest Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Center). We offer the Aging Mastery Program, which encourages healthy behavior change, and help community members who experience chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disorders to enroll in Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs. Those conditions, left unchecked, can lead to organ failure. Our case managers and nurses promote healthier habits to their clients. Our chronic condition self-management plans and flags support this work, and these have been used by many other organizations, here and in other parts of the country. We’re working to create more livable communities that encourage healthy behavior like walking and social activity. And we connect people to services and resources that help meet their needs. Anyone who needs aging or disability services—for a family member, friend, neighbor, client, or themselves—call Community Living Connections at 1-844-348-5464.

As of June 30, 2019, there were 113,375 people across the United States waiting for an organ transplant—1,676 in Washington state. We hope to get the word out—especially among people of color—that signing on to the organ donation registry is easy. I hope you will help.

Anyone age 15-and-a-half or older can become a donor. Sign-up can coincide with getting or renewing a driver’s license. In fact, you’ll find organ donation information on the state Department of Licensing website and at LifeCenter Northwest, the nonprofit that operates the Organ Donation Network. Their Understanding Donation page addressed questions I had about age, medical condition, religion, and more. You can sign up online.

For more information about organ donation, see the LifeCenter NW brochures in English, Chinese, Español, Korean, and Vietnamese or inquire at any Department of Licensing office.

Cathy Knight directs the Aging and Disability Services (ADS) division of the Seattle Human Services Department. ADS is designated by the State of Washington as the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County. For more information about the national and local aging network, click here.