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The Squeeze, Vol. 23: Give a little bit

The Squeeze, Vol. 23: Give a little bit.

Coincidence? I think not.

What’s going on?
April is observed as both National ‘Donate Life’ and ‘Minority Health’ Month– a fitting pair given the inequities in the American organ transplant system.

ICYDK, the following organs and tissues are available for transplant: kidney, liver, heart, lung, intestines, pancreas, cornea, and tissue. And the types of donation include:
  • Deceased Donation: giving an organ (or part of an organ), eye, or tissue at the time of death
  • Living Donation: when a living person donates one of their kidneys or a part of their liver
  • Vascularized Composite Allografts: transplantation of multiple structures (e.g., hand and face) that may include skin, bone, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues
  • Pediatric Donation: transplantation in children, who often respond better to child-sized organs
There are currently over 104,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list, with another person added every 9 minutes. Though the number of deceased organ donations has consistently increased over the past decade, 17 people die each day waiting for a transplant. And the numbers are even grimmer for Black Americans, who experience the highest rates of heart failure and are four times as likely as white people to develop kidney failure. Yet Black patients are 50% as likely as white patients to be placed on a kidney transplant waitlist, and their average wait time is a year longer. New York – which represents nearly 10% of the transplant waitlist yet has one of the lowest donor registrations – is combatting its organ demand/supply imbalance and inequities with increased support for living donor transplantation. Living donation saves two lives (the recipient and the next one on the deceased organ waiting list) and provides better outcomes (i.e., fewer complications, longer organ survival) as well. Two such cases were featured in Northwell Health’s new watch-worthy Netflix docuseries, ‘Emergency: NYC.’ But nationwide only ~20% of those in need will find a living donor.
  • Deterrents for this life-saving deed include medical and psychological risks, along with the thousands of dollars in expenses and lost wages that donors may endure. To eliminate such financial barriers, Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed the ‘New York State Living Donor Support Act,’ to reimburse New Yorkers who want to donate a kidney or part of a liver to fellow New Yorkers.
  • Still, transplant prospects must often advocate for themselves to find an organ donor. Many have used grassroots tactics like renting billboard space (some even in Times Square), but not everyone in need has the means to do so. That’s why Montefiore Einstein Hospital System partnered with agency, Alto, to create ‘Live and Let Live,’ a digital platform that allows patients to build personalized ads and market themselves to prospective donors beyond their own networks. The campaign launched in 2021 with this 2-minute film, which will give you all of the feels even if you’ve watched it before:
Play Video

What's The Squeeze?
It’s time for systemic shake-up in organ transplantation and while legislature is moving in the right direction, there’s plenty more that we can do personally and professionally to help.

Hopefully others will follow New York’s lead by enacting reimbursement for living donors in their states too. If you need that to happen before you’ll consider becoming a living donor yourself, you can still personally save up to eight lives if you register to donate your organs when you die. Just last month the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) announced plans to overhaul the U.S. organ transplant system, including a more transparent process for patient and organ matching. But to really address transplantation inequities the healthcare industry must improve the opportunity for all people to access care, minimizing biases that lead providers to under treat and under communicate with minority groups. Race and ethnicity don’t biologically matter for organ matching, so that shouldn’t be a consideration for the people involved in the process either. That’s why Montefiore Einstein’s ‘Live and Let Live’ campaign is admirable on so many levels:
  1. Its intent was to bring equal access to world-class healthcare, helping transplant patients to market themselves versus the organization overtly marketing its services. After all, hospitals can’t perform the surgeries if there aren’t any organs to transplant.
  2. The approach removes typical preconceived notions about why patients want to live and allows them to tell their own stories.
  3. It proves that we as healthcare marketers can use creativity to become part of the solution. In its first year since launching, the hospital received 226 calls from interested living donors and three patients who were part of the campaign found life-saving organ matches.

Related Insights.

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