“Someone’s blood saved my life and made my mom smile – was that you?” – A five-year-old kid
January is National Blood Donor Month. Unfortunately, wintery weather and the expected instances of flu and colds create obstacles that often hamper donors’ ability to give and challenge the annual drive’s efforts to collect life-saving donations.
“Tens of thousands of blood donors are needed each day across the U.S. to transform the lives of patients requiring blood transfusions,” says Mitzy Edgecomb, vice president of marketing and communications at Vitalant. “Summer and winter are notoriously difficult times for collecting enough blood donations, but the need does not stop and can even rise due to increased travel, activity, adverse weather events, and cold and flu season, among other factors.”
Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, creating a demand that is too often greater than the supply. A primary reason for the shortage is, frankly, that giving blood is not top-of-mind.
A 2019 survey conducted on behalf of the Red Cross indicated a troubling disconnect between the public’s perception of blood donations and the reality of the needs.
- When it comes to donations, people primarily thought of clothes (69%), money (63%), and food (53%) as ways to help others in the past year. Yet only 3% of people in the U.S. give blood.
- A third (33%) of the public has never considered that blood may not be available when a loved one needs it.
- While blood transfusion is one of the most common hospital procedures in the U.S., “Never really thought about it” was cited as the primary reason, (26%) that people do not give blood among those who haven’t given recently.
Facebook Joins Forces with Blood Donation Organizations
In mid-2019, the social media giant launched its Blood Donations feature in the U.S. Since 2017, the company had been working with blood donation centers worldwide to leverage its monumental platform not only to reach potential donors but also to connect with them in times of need. Facebook now partners with various organizations across the U.S., including America’s Blood Centers, the American Red Cross, Inova, New York Blood Center, Rock River Valley Blood Center, Stanford Blood Center, Versiti and Vitalant.
“People will see and respond to these blood donation requests and opportunities on the Blood Donations destination on Facebook. They can also use tools on this page to inspire their friends to donate, too,” reports Sarah Perez.
Millennials to the Rescue
Abbott sees millennials as the key to combating the shortage of blood donations. The Abbott-YouGov May 2019 survey noted that of the millennials surveyed, 12% say they are regularly donating blood. Known for their passion and activism toward causes they believe in, this vast segment of the population could have a notable impact on the nation’s blood supply.
“Millennials are known for wanting to impact global issues positively, and we are hoping to see that passion applied to donating blood,” says Alexander Carterson, M.D., Ph.D., global medical director, Transfusion Medicine, Abbott.
What would motivate millennials to donate? Survey results reveal inspiring factors, including —
- 23% would donate if they knew someone who needed blood
- 20% would donate if there were special needs specifically for their blood type
- 18% said they’d be inspired if they could see the impact on someone’s life
“Historically, 45% of blood donations in the U.S. are from people 50 and older,” notes the global healthcare leader. “A large portion of these regular donors are baby boomers who are starting to reach an age when they develop health problems that make them ineligible to give blood. With millennials expected to overtake baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation in 2019, it’s more critical than ever that this new generation of blood donors step up to take boomers’ place.”
Combating the Myths about Donating Blood
The Blood Center dispels these common myths that can deter potential donors.
- “I might get a disease from donating blood.”
Because all equipment is brand new, state-of-the-art, disposable, and used only one time, the procedure is entirely safe.
- “They don’t really need my type.”
All types, including common ones like O-positive and A-positive, are needed by patients all the time. The need is on-going, constant, and too often reaches critical levels.
- “I’m too young or too old.”
With a minimum age of 16 and no upper age limit whatsoever, a person’s health, not age, is the primary concern.
- “Other people must be giving enough blood.”
Less than 5% of the eligible population donates blood.
“Donating blood is the one selfless act that most people can do to transform three lives from just one donation,” said Dave Green, CEO and President of Vitalant, formerly Blood Systems. “We’re asking everyone, especially the younger generations, to step up and donate so they can save lives, and maybe transform their own in the process.”
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