By Aleks Borisov,
A year ago, the National Blood Agency called upon Canadians to donate due to a critically low supply. Twelve thousand units remained, when 20,000-25,000 units are necessary at all times to adequately serve hospitals across Canada.1 Donors rallied and helped restore the blood banks; however, two months later, supplies were low once again – at 18,000 units. It is important to note that this shortage refers to whole blood donations, and is one of several different types of donations one can give. Whole blood donations take approximately 15 minutes and can be carried out at mobile drives, whereas platelet and plasma donations take upwards of 45 minutes and stem cell donations require multiple visits.2
Canadian Blood Services are perpetually in need of blood donors, and yet few of us share this sense of urgency, myself included. My first blood donation was less than a year ago, and prior to that, donating blood only ever crossed my mind when the rare Facebook friend would make a post encouraging others to donate. Had I been exposed to more information on the topic at an earlier age I may have started donating years ago. There is a substantial amount of literature explaining the public’s hesitancy and general disinterest in donating, and it appears to stem from a lack of understanding of both the process itself, and its importance.
One of the main reasons individuals avoid blood donation is the associated fear and anxiety from needle exposure, blood, and potential for pain.3 This is largely a result of our upbringing in a society that portrays needles as something to be feared. Such anxiety is a factor known to deter first time donors, and lower rates of return donors.3 Another factor impacting donation rates, especially amongst younger donors is convenience. In a study from Quebec, many whole blood donors stated that they gave blood primarily because there was a donation site close to their home, workplace or place of study, giving all the more reason to have pop-up clinics at universities.2
According to studies that observe the motivations of donors, researchers and blood service administrators can develop more effective strategies to increase first time and return donor rates. One study found that the greatest number of donors are altruistically motivated, meaning they feel that their blood can save the lives of others.3 With this motivation being the most commonly shared amongst all age groups and genders, studies have concluded that the most effective method to promote return donors is by sending encouraging reminders.4 In order to entice first time donors however, recruitment strategies need to be further tailored to different groups of people. Strategies which emphasize the need for blood products were found to be more effective in women and older groups of people, while strategies stressing the benefits for donors seemed to work better among men, younger people, and students.2
Moving forward, strategies to better equip hospitals with adequate blood supply must involve targeting youth in elementary and high schools through educational campaigns to familiarize them with the process, and to teach them about how important the practice is. A study also found that individuals raised in households where blood donation was an integral part of growing up were much more likely to donate when they grew up and became independent.5 Therefore, society also has an integral role to play in promoting the simple civil duty of donating.
1 Wheeler, S. (2017, August 11). Why Canada’s blood donation problem persists. The Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com
2 Charbonneau, J., Cloutier, MS., Carrier, E. (2015). Whole blood and apheresis donors in Quebec, Canada: Demographic differences and motivations to donate. Transfusion. 53(3): 320-328. doi.org/10.1016/j.transci.2015.06.001.
3 Clowes, R., Masser, B.M. (2012). Right here, right now: the impact of the blood donation context on anxiety, attitudes, subjective norms, self-efficacy, and intention to donate blood. Transfusion. 52(7): 1560-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2011.03486.
4 Godin, G., Vezina-Im, L.A., Belanger-Gravel, A., Amireault, S. (2012). Efficacy of interventions promoting blood donation: a systematic review. Transfusion Med Rev. 26(3): 224-237. doi: 10.1016/j.tmrv.2011.10.001.
5 Queniart, A. (2013). Blood donation within the family: the transmission of values and practices. Transfusion. doi.org/10.1111/trf.12474.
6 JEEVA Blood Donation Camp Held. (March 24, 2018). Retrieved from https://starofmysore.com/jeeva-blood-donation-camp-held/