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NBA player Marcus Smart joins partnership to advocate for patients battling blood cancers and blood diseases
September 08 2022
COLUMBUS, Ga. and MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. Sept. 8, 2022 — Highlighting its 27-year commitment to children and families facing childhood cancer and sickle cell disease (SCD), Aflac, the number one provider of supplemental health insurance in the U.S.1 and Be The Match®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, which has helped facilitate more than 111,000 blood stem cell transplants worldwide, today announced a partnership to continue diversifying the national blood stem cell donor registry. The agreement is part of Aflac’s overall campaign commemorating National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, both of which occur in September. Since 1995, Aflac has contributed more than $160 million to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the largest sickle cell care provider in the United States.
Beginning in September, Aflac and Be The Match will conduct an ongoing digital registration drive aimed at adding hundreds of Aflac employees and sales agents to the national registry of volunteer blood stem cell and marrow donors. Together, the two companies will work alongside NBA player Marcus Smart, who lost his brother and mother to blood cancer, to shine a light on health care inequities that exist, particularly as it relates to the diversity of blood stem cell and marrow registries. Their efforts will include an informative webinar that will be hosted by U.S. News and World Report on September 28 from 1:00 to 2:00 pm.
“One of the defining moments of my life was seeing my oldest brother courageously battle leukemia. His legacy continues to inspire me on and off the court, as do all of the young patients who are fighting for their lives to beat leukemia or sickle cell disease,” Marcus Smart said. “To know that there is a potential cure for blood cancer and blood disorders but those cures aren’t available to all patients because of their ethnicity is unacceptable. That’s why I’m joining Aflac and Be The Match to use my voice and encourage everyone to consider swabbing their cheek and joining the national blood stem cell registry. This is just one way we can give hope to patients and help save more lives.”
According to Be The Match, a significant disparity exists, based on ethnic background, when it pertains to finding a matching donor for lifesaving blood stem cell or marrow transplants.
Tissue types used in matching are inherited and unique, so patients are most likely to match someone of the same ethnic ancestry or ethnic background. Given the diversity in tissue types, the odds of a Black or African American patient finding a match is 29%, compared to a white individual, who has a 79% chance.
“This initiative with Be The Match focuses on two of Aflac’s long held passions, helping children with cancer and blood disorders, and supporting programs that help close equity gaps, such as the one that currently exists related to access to bone marrow matches in the United States,” said Aflac Executive Vice President, General Counsel Audrey Boone Tillman. “It also aligns perfectly with the incredible work of Be The Match, whose vision is to ensure everyone has an equal chance at getting their life-saving transplant, particularly for many children with sickle cell and blood cancers such as leukemia. There is a dire need, especially for children of color, to encourage friends and family to register with Be The Match.”
“Every year, 12,000 patients are diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers or other diseases like sickle cell for which a blood stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor is their best or only hope for a cure. With 70% of patients not having a fully matched donor in their family, they depend on Be The Match to find an unrelated donor,” said Erica Jensen, Senior Vice President, Member Engagement, Enrollment and Experience, for Be The Match. “To address existing disparities head on, it’s essential to register as many young, diverse members as we can to ensure more people will find a match. In partnership with Aflac and Marcus Smart, we are urging everyone to get involved, swab their cheek and help save a life.”
In addition to conducting a Be The Match Registry drive and hosting educational programs throughout the month, Be The Match will also be including Aflac’s award-winning My Special Aflac Duck® as part of their Packages of Hope, which they distribute to children with cancer and sickle cell who come to them in search of a blood stem cell or marrow match. It is estimated that as many as 1,000 children will receive this robotic comfort providing duck through this program, who otherwise would not be able to access My Special Aflac Duck, which is distributed to children free of charge.
Additional Aflac activations throughout September include:
- Aflac will donate $5 for every use of the hashtag #DuckPrints for pediatric cancer and #StandinSeptember for sickle cell disease up to $1.5 million.
- Aflac is sponsoring the Miles for Miracles campaign Sept. 1-27, promoting healthy habits while raising funds for the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. This program is open to Aflac employees and agents as well as the general public and consists of making an individual or team donation of $35 to the center followed by walking 27 miles in 27 days to raise awareness for this cause
- Three My Special Aflac Duck delivery events at hospitals in Miami, New Orleans and Lafayette, Louisiana, wherein a fun event for children is held, culminating in each child with cancer or sickle cell, age 3 and older, receiving their very own duck
- Aflac will issue 12 grants to selected child life specialist programs at hospitals across the nation to help health care providers in their mission to help deliver comfort to children with cancer and blood disorders and their siblings
- A sickle cell care room at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. will be named for Aflac. In June, Aflac announced a $100,000 grant to Children’s National to help advance their sickle cell program.
ABOUT AFLAC INCORPORATED
Aflac Incorporated (NYSE: AFL) is a Fortune 500 company helping provide protection to more than 50 million people through its subsidiaries in Japan and the U.S., paying cash fast when policyholders get sick or injured. For more than six decades, insurance policies of Aflac Incorporated's subsidiaries have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the U.S., Aflac is the number one provider of supplemental health insurance products.1 Aflac Life Insurance Japan is the leading provider of medical and cancer insurance in Japan, where it insures 1 in 4 households. In 2021, Aflac Incorporated was proud to be included as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere for the 16th consecutive year. Also in 2021, the company was included in the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index and became a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). In 2022, Aflac Incorporated was included on Fortune's list of World's Most Admired Companies for the 21st time and Bloomberg's Gender-Equality Index for the third consecutive year. To find out how to get help with expenses health insurance doesn't cover, get to know us at aflac.com or aflac.com/español. Investors may learn more about Aflac Incorporated and its commitment to ESG and social responsibility at investors.aflac.com under "Sustainability."
ABOUT BE THE MATCH®
Be The Match® is a global leader working every day to save lives through cellular therapy. For people with life-threatening blood cancers—like leukemia and lymphoma—or other blood disorders like sickle cell, a cure exists. Be The Match connects patients with a matching donor for a life-saving blood stem cell transplant. The Be The Match Registry® is the most diverse registry in the world and includes both adult donors willing to donate to a stranger in need and stored cord blood units. In addition, Be The Match provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education, and guidance before, during and after transplant. Be The Match is also a global leader in research through the CIBMTR® (Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research®)—a collaboration with Medical College of Wisconsin, investing in and managing research studies that improve patient outcomes and advance the future of care.
Aflac: Jon Sullivan, 706-573-7610 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Be The Match: Erica Sevilla, 740-919-9761 or email@example.com
Analyst and investor contact:
Aflac: David A. Young, 706-596-3264, 800-235-2667 or firstname.lastname@example.org
1 LIMRA 2021 US Supplemental Health Insurance Total Market Report