The Government of Canada recognizes the life-saving impact that living organ donation has on those in need of a transplantation. Unfortunately, access to organ donation is dramatically lower among marginalized communities in Canada, such as South Asian, African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) populations. For example, access to living donor kidney transplantation (LDKT) for these populations is between 50% and 75% lower that the Canadian average.
The Government of Canada believes that all Canadians should have fair and equal access to health care services, including organ donation and transplantation (ODT), that are high-quality, culturally safe and free from racism and discrimination.
That is why, today, during Living Donation Week, the Honourable Mark Holland, Minister of Health, announced key milestones achieved through the Improving Access to LDKT in Ethno-racial Minority Communities in Canada (ACTION) project. The project will help improve equitable access to LDKT for patients with kidney failure from marginalized communities in British Columbia and Ontario.
For many patients, a kidney transplant from a living donor provides better outcomes—longer life expectancy and better quality of life. In marginalized communities, historic and personal experiences with racism and discrimination have a tangible impact on organ donation rates.
With almost $1 million in funding over three years, Providence Healthcare and the University Health Network Centre for Living Donation have developed interventions to address these barriers, including culturally safe and relevant health care tools, and increased community engagement.
- The development of culturally relevant educational materials, such as digital stories, and clinical tools and strategies to support the work of health professionals;
- Sustainable community engagement with the South Asian and ACB communities in Canada;
- A collection of shared patient and community experiences, and other key findings with stakeholders in the ODT community; and,
- Alignment of this project with other ongoing efforts which aim to improve access to LDKT for First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations.
Through this project and others, the Government of Canada will continue to work with key partners to improve our health care system and ensure that Canadians, regardless of their ethnicity or race have timely and fair access to quality ODT services wherever they live across the country.
“Living donor kidney transplants save lives and there is a critical need for more organ donors in Canada. By investing in projects like this, we are helping to improve living donation and transplantation for Canadians, especially marginalized communities. These key milestones demonstrate we are moving in the right direction to address gaps in the organ donation and transplantation system, and increase the number and quality of successful kidney transplantations across the country.”
The Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health
“The transformative aspect of this project is that it is based on the recognition that we can only achieve meaningful and sustainable equity in access to health care if patients and communities are equal partners in developing solutions. This work builds on the work we have been doing to improve access to kidney transplantation among Indigenous populations in British Columbia and applies a patient and community engagement based approach to addressing inequities in access to transplantation among South Asian and ACB populations in Canada. We are excited at the significant progress that has been made and are honoured to have built a bridge with communities that will lead to ongoing improvements in health care that will lead to improved access to transplantation for Canadians.”
Dr. Jagbir Gill
“This project was an essential step towards building trusting relationship with ACB communities, and to mitigate the harm of discrimination and systemic racism in this field. We continue to work with our community partners, including Black Health Alliance, Canadians of African Descent Health Organization and others to better understand the needs of ACB communities. Based on this work we will implement clinical pathways to support patients from these communities to explore their best treatment option for kidney failure.”
Dr. Istvan Mucsi
UHN Centre for Living Donation
- Following a decrease in ODT throughout the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, the system appears to be recovering. In 2021, Canada’s living donor rate was 15.5 donors per million population. This is a 20% increase from 2020. A total of 2,782 solid organ transplants—such as kidney, heart, lung and liver—were performed in Canada in 2021. This is an increase of 6% compared to 2020 and a 23% increase compared to 10 years ago.
- Since 2018, Health Canada has been convening an initiative called the ODT Collaborative (the Collaborative) with provinces and territories (Quebec maintains observer status), Canadian Blood Services, and many additional stakeholders including patients, clinicians and researchers. The Collaborative’s vision is to achieve ODT improvements that result in better patient outcomes and an increase in the number and quality of successful transplantations.
- Through the Collaborative, Health Canada supports targeted projects to address persistent gaps in the ODT system. These projects are working towards a higher-performing system and improved equity of access in living and deceased ODT.