NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, Grammy award winning songstress Caron Wheeler, and Isaiah Williams of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, are among the celebrities and athletes who are lending their efforts to raise awareness about the critical need for African Americans to join the national registry of bone marrow donors, known as Be The Match.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is partnering with The National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), to build public awareness about the importance of African Americans serving as bone marrow donors throughout July, African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month.
Every year, more than 10,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases for which the best option for a cure can be a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor or donated cord blood unit. Approximately 70 percent of patients in need of transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. Patients are most likely to match with a donor who shares a similar racial or ethnic background, therefore making it incredibly important to diversify the registry.
The majority of patients in need of potentially life-saving bone marrow or cord blood transplant depend on the national registry for a match. This month the NMDP and CBCF are calling attention to the fact that only 7 percent of the 8 million potential donors on the national registry are African American. Fewer potential African American donors mean fewer potential matches for African American patients seeking transplant. The NMDP is committed to increasing the number of potential donors and diversifying the national registry to ensure that all Americans have access to a match.
“Growing the national registry starts with volunteers in communities across the country,” said Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D., chief executive officer of the NMDP. “Patients in need of transplant rely on donor drives to expand the registry so that their chances of finding a potentially life-saving match increase. As growing numbers of Americans are in need of transplant, expanding and diversifying the registry is critical, which is why reauthorization of the Program and the NCBI is so urgent.”
Shaquille O'Neal has partnered with Be The Match to produce a video highlighting this important need. Caron Wheeler and Isaiah Williams are helping a young broadway star, Shannon Tavarez, who was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of leukemia. Learn more about Shannon HERE.
The HBCU community is also raising awareness by partnering with Be The Match to launch the Say It Loud! Save Lives and Be Proud! program. Learn more at http://hbcu.bethematch.org/.
Related post: Make Me A Match Project Aims to Raise Awareness of Bone Marrow Donors in the African American Community. View HERE.