Kidneys are the most needed organ for transplant with around 84% of patients on the national waitlist needing a lifesaving kidney.

Multicultural communities have increased risks for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, which could all eventually lead to kidney disease. National data demonstrates that Black and Latinx patients needing dialysis are less likely to be referred to a transplant center and placed on the waitlist.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM report) finds the U.S. organ transplant system to be “… demonstrably inequitable … Certain groups of patients (e.g. patients of color, lower socioeconomic status, older patients) receive organ transplants at a disproportionately lower rate and after longer waiting times than other patients with comparable medical need.”

Patients that have little to no health insurance have a huge financial barrier in receiving a kidney transplant. The average cost for a kidney transplant is more than $260,000, which includes pre-transplant screening, surgery, post-surgery care and medications. The alternative of being on dialysis can cost up to $80,000-100,000 per year for those with end-stage renal disease. Click here to watch a video highlighting “The Impact of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Organ Donation Outcomes.”

There are several different initiatives in place working to increase kidney transplants and reduce barriers.

  • The kidney transplant collaborative, is working to change governmental policies and share best multidisciplinary practices in kidney donation and transplantation.
  • Efforts are underway to eliminate race in the listing and allocation of organs to potential recipients. This is particularly focused on getting rid of the race-based thresholds for estimating kidney function through eGFR, which can underestimate the severity of kidney disease in minority patients of color, leading a patient to be less likely to be placed on a waitlist.
  • The Board of Directors of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) approved a policy in July of 2022 to require transplant hospitals to use only race-neutral eGFR formulas for data when listing a patient for transplant in UNET, the OPTN computer system.
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued a “request for information” to receive comments from key stakeholders and the public surrounding organ donation and transplantation to work on policies to improve the process.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the The Advancing American Kidney Health Initiative in 2019 to create changes to policies that will create more kidneys available for transplant and make kidney transplants more affordable with Medicare payment plans.

These are only a few initiatives, and more are needed to address the disparities in kidney donation and transplantation. Through increased awareness, improved policies and systemic change, the process can become fair and equitable for anyone who needs a lifesaving kidney.

Lifeline of Ohio is committed to breaking down systemic barriers in organ donation and transplantation and alongside our amazing hospital partners, we can work together to improve lives in the communities we serve.