Professor Gurch Randhawa, Professor of Diversity in Public Health and director of the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire. He has over 25 years of experience working within government public health authorities and much to say on organ donation and transplantation research. He is the author of the ‘Faith Engagement & Organ Donation Action Plan’ and director of the UK Organ Donor and Transplant Research Centre. He is a seasoned media commentator.
Asian Voice spoke to him about Organ Donation Week.
Why do barriers like religion, culture or ethnic minority still have momentum over saving someone's life via organ donation?
Research shows that the lack of trust among different ethnic communities is one of the main reasons organ donation rates are low and need improvement. For example, our research paper highlights some of the key religious or cultural reasons why organ donation is low including confusion between organ donation and religious beliefs on death, such as cremation, lack of trust regarding the process and a reluctance to donate due to lack of knowledge and scepticism.
How forthcoming do you think ethnic minority groups are when it comes to donating or receiving organ donation?
Our organ donation and transplant research shows that organ transplantation benefits a wide range of people from different socio-economic, age, gender, educational, cultural, faith and ethnic backgrounds. Yet, just as in many other areas of health, the benefits are not evenly distributed in society and do not always reflect the diversity of the country’s population.
Please tell our readers about the policy landscape of organ donation and transplantation in the UK including the opt-in or out policy and family authorisation rates
To increase familiarity with organ donation and build trust, NHS Blood & Transplant has developed a Community Grants Programme (Deceased Donation) and the Living Transplant Initiative. These initiatives have adopted a grassroots approach by funding local organisations that are embedded within local communities, utilising donor and recipient perspectives. These initiatives also aim to build support for donation including blood, organ, kidney, stem cell and combined blood and deceased organ donation amongst Black, Asian, mixed heritage and minority ethnic communities.
Why is there a need to adopt a culturally competent framework and best practices to encourage organ donation from religious, cultural and ethnic minority groups?
To build trust with communities, our research shows that we need to develop culturally competent events that involve tailored messages with trusted messengers. For example, during Organ Donation Week, The University of Bedfordshire hosted two events: firstly showcasing a Nollywood film for the black community produced by the Action on Blood charity and taking a comedy approach to dispelling many urban myths about organ donation. The second event was profiling our new “Islam & organ donation” book, which sets out the range of opinions related to organ donation to enable dialogue and discussion so that the public can reach their own informed decision. There were also shared donor and recipient stories at the events so attendees could hear from those personally affected by their donation and transplantation.
What does the data say? If we all pledge our organs, how many lives would we save?
The demand for organ transplants is disproportionately greater among minority ethnic communities, making up 1 in 3 of those waiting for a transplant. Waiting times are also longer due to a lack of suitable organs. Family authorisation rates for organ donation, and those on the opt-in register are disproportionately lower among minority ethnic communities. One person donating can save up to nine lives and it’s important that organ donation is encouraged.
Lack of trust among different ethnic communities’ remains one of the main issues for low organ donation rates. Building trust on this topic with the community will help improve organ donation rates.