A kickoff for the Bayanihan, a project of the Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program was held yesterday at the Filipino Center in Waipahu. Robyn Kaufman, left, the project director and Tony Sagayadoro, the project co-ordinator spoke to those in attendance.

Program enlists
Filipino lifesavers

An education effort aims to
increase organ and tissue donors

By Helen Altonn

A $750,000 five-year educational campaign has begun to increase Filipino organ, tissue and eye donations in Hawaii.

The effort, which kicked off yesterday, is expected to establish a model for similar campaigns among minority groups nationally.

"I think it's a great opportunity for both Hawaii and the United States to try to increase minority organ donations," said Dr. Linda Wong, transplant surgeon and director of the Liver Transplant Program, St. Francis Medical Center.

"We're trying to set a model for the United States so when they have other minority groups they can look and see what we've done here and do a similar project," she said.

The project is called "Bayanihan" or "Working Together to Help: A Filipino Educational Program."

Wong is principal investigator of Bayanihan, being conducted by the Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program, Organ Donor Center of Hawaii and the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, an arm of the University of Hawaii.

The minority organ education program's success in collaborating with other agencies to increase Filipino organ donors in recent years was cited by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in funding the new program.

In 1993, only 3 percent of all island organ donors were Filipino, said Tony Sagayadoro, MOTTEP program coordinator. Now it's about 24 or 25 percent, he said.

He had a kidney transplant May 15, 2001, after five years on the waiting list. "I'm really back to normal, thanks to God," he said. "It's really a miracle. That's what got me in here (MOTTEP) full-time."

MOTTEP was initiated in 1994 under the umbrella of the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii. They increased Filipino organ donations in collaboration with the Filipino community.

Still, there is a huge disparity, Wong said, pointing to the large number of Filipinos on dialysis waiting for kidney transplants.

Nearly 400 patients of different ethnic backgrounds are waiting for heart, lung, pancreas and kidney transplants, Wong said. Of the number, 346 need kidneys, she said.

Filipino community leaders, organ donor and medical officials launched the statewide organ donor education project with a presentation, "Share the Vision of the Bayanihan," yesterday at the Filipino Community Center.

Dr. Karen Glanz, professor and director of the Cancer Research Center's Social & Behavioral Sciences Program, is co-principal investigator and evaluation director. Robyn Kaufman, Organ Donor Center executive director, is project director, and Sagayadoro is project coordinator.

Their goal is to try to get more people to sign donor cards by talking to families about donations and using educational messages in different settings, such as health fairs and churches.

Sagayadoro said all Filipino community leaders are being asked to form a leadership council to help plan and participate in the program. The council will collaborate a volunteer effort to develop a "consistent educational message" on organ, tissue and eye donations statewide, Sagayadoro said.

A youth leadership advisory council also will be organized, he said.

Reviewers who evaluated the program for NIH funding had high praise for MOTTEP's role in improving Filipino organ donations. They noted nearly a 100 percent increase in organ donations in Hawaii through statewide educational efforts from 1993 to 2000, including a 21 percent increase among Filipinos.

"Nevertheless, the investigators cite the high incidence of renal failure in Filipinos as the primary reason for continuing and enhancing organ donation education efforts that target Filipinos specifically," the reviewers said.

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