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What did fmr. US surgeon general and WISH med. expert say about overhaul of organ donation rules

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dr. Jerome Adams, WISH-TV medical expert and former U.S. surgeon general, talked with News 8 Tuesday about big medical news over the past week.

Suggested changes for organ donations

Adams said changes would include efforts to provide better and more transparent data via real-time dashboards, more funding for organ procurement and transplantation, and breaking up the power of the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit with a $6.5 million annual contract from the government.

“UNOS has faced numerous problems including discarding or damaging too many organs during transit.”

He says a 2022 report by the National Academy of Medicine called the organ procurement and donation system demonstrably inequitable, and found 1 in 5 kidneys that have been donated goes unused.

“For years, patients have said the system lacks oversight, efficiency, and that it discriminates against people of color. And as an example, Black Americans are four times more likely to have kidney failure than whites, but they’re much less likely to get on organ donation lists and receive transplants.

“The White House is hopeful that their changes will encourage competition against UNOS and improve outcomes in a system that have effectively operated as a monopoly for decades.”

Child deaths on rise

Adams says life expectancy for people below the age of 18 is declining for the first time in recent history, and the decline is driven by fatal injuries, such as shootings — both increases in homicides and a 70% increase in suicides — as well as a spike in drug overdoses. He notes the changes are happening amid a mental health crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Researchers found a 20% increase in pediatric mortality from 2019 to 2021, the largest increase in over 50 years. Put another way: If you’re a parent of kids under the age of 18 right now, your kids are less likely than you were at their age to reach adulthood.”

The doctor suggested normalizing discussions about mental health at home, encouraging children to talk about their feelings and paying attention to warning signs for depression. “This can include behavioral problems at school, changes in eating or sleeping habits, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and lack of interest in activities that they previously found fun.”

He says parents should maintain strict control over dangerous substances and items, including prescription opioids, firearms and ammunition, in their homes.

Spring break’s here

The former surgeon general gave his approval for absolutely enjoying spring break.

“You know, making time to unwind with your family is important for your mental health. I would just say to remember to take simple precautions, like making sure you’re up to date on your vaccines — I’m already hearing people coming back from spring break with COVID — enjoying adult beverages in moderation, and being aware of your surroundings when you’re in a strange place, particularly if you leave the country.

His wife, Lacy, who had melanoma, asked him to remind people to also wear a hat and use plenty of sunscreen.

Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.