The Need to Spread Awareness
Statistics indicate that ethnic minorities as a whole comprise roughly 25% of the marrow registry. Due to the specificity of the HLA-type markers that are required to match patients and donors, it’s overwhelmingly likely that the match for a minority patient will be from a donor of the same ethnicity.
With a lack of minority donors from all ethnic groups, this poses a significant and deadly problem for minority patients.
Why aren’t there more minority donors in the registry?
While not definitive, we believe that the lack of minority donors is a result of several factors:
- A lack of awareness. The need for bone marrow donors is often not as well publicized as other causes. While drives occur on a daily basis throughout the United States, they are not necessarily targeted towards minority groups. Without experiencing a drive at a workplace, place of worship or cultural center, many people go their entire lives without ever hearing about bone marrow donation.
- Misconceptions about donating. As recently as a decade ago, joining the marrow registry required a blood draw and the donation procedures themselves were likely to be more invasive. With the evolution of medical technology over the past decade donors can join the registry with a procedure as simple as rubbing four cotton swabs on the inside of their cheek. Donation procedures remain misunderstood, particularly with respect to the process of donating and how much it hurts.
- Differing cultural norms. Many cultures throughout the world do not exercise public acts of charity, not because they're unkind or unsympathetic, but rather because acts of empathy and service are centered more strongly around families or tight-knit communities. As a result, western ideals and the actions of public charitable organizations may seem foreign or untrustworthy to American immigrants. Furthermore, language barriers and an unfamiliarity with the American health system may make minority groups especially wary of initiatives like bone marrow donation.
What can I do to help?
It’s super easy to help spreading awareness about the registry. For starters, you can:
- Talk to your friends and loved ones in person about what you've read here, because a personal plea will go much farther to engage others than the text of any website;
- Give them the link to cheekswab.org so they can learn more about bone marrow donation for themselves;
- Post the link to cheekswab.org on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to spread awareness to people you know but may not see in person; and
- Host a drive or speaking session with someone from Cheekswab for your group of friends, office, place of worship, or other student/social group.
For more details on any of the above items, visit our Get Involved page or Contact Us.
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