There are so many observances throughout the year that several of them happen simultaneously. However April’s pairing of National Minority Health Month and National Donate Life Month is not pure happenstance.

National Minority Health Month

African Americans and other ethnic minorities are plagued by a number of chronic illnesses that may not be an immediate threat to life itself; however neglect of these chronic and often preventable conditions can surely lead to an early death. Perhaps the biggest of these chronic illnesses that disproportionately plague African Americans is hypertension and diabetes. According to the National Institute of Health,

“The most common causes of kidney failure are diabetes and high blood pressure, together accounting for about 70 percent of new cases.”

That bears repeating, 70 percent of new cases of chronic kidney disease is caused by uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension—both controllable conditions. Controllable in large part by good decision making: diet and exercise, and medication prescribed by a doctor. And this brings us to the next April observance.

National Donate Life Month

National Donate Life Month promoted largely by the Gift of Life Foundation encourages people to make the decision to become organ donors, either living or at the time of death so that those waiting on the transplant list, can live. There are currently more than 110,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S. Millions of organs are wasted daily when people die without donating their organs. It is a simple process to sign up on the national organ donor registry: http://donatelife.net/register-now/

In the case of kidneys, while African Americans make up 12% of the population, we make up 32% of those on dialysis.

In April and beyond, join with me to make smart and healthy decisions to improve minority health, and please “Donate Life”—my brother Jeff (my kidney donor) and another individual (my pancreas donor)’s decisions to donate life are why I live today!

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