Education for Blood Donation as an Avenue for School and Community Cooperation

By Felts, W. Michael; Glascoff, Mary A. | Journal of School Health, March 1990 | Go to article overview

Education for Blood Donation as an Avenue for School and Community Cooperation


Felts, W. Michael, Glascoff, Mary A., Journal of School Health


Education for Blood Donation as an Avenue for School and Community Cooperation

During 1990, about 5 million Americans will require blood transfusions, resulting in 13.5 million blood component units being transfused. A safe, readily available blood supply is essential for many lifesaving medical procedures, yet many Americans are unaware of both the voluntary nature of the U.S. blood supply system and the unique nature of blood itself. This lack of knowledge breeds misconceptions which potentially lessen the likelihood that individuals may choose to donate and thereby threaten the availability of this indispensable medical resource.[1]

This commentary encourages incorporation of education about blood donation in school curricula. Specifically, it 1) offers background information on the current status of the U.S. blood supply, 2) outlines research on factors that influence individual decisions to donate blood, 3) provides a rationale for inclusion of education about blood donation in school curricula, and 4) describes examples of curricula and program models that promote blood donation.

STATUS OF THE U.S. BLOOD SUPPLY

With the invasion of AIDS in the early 1980s, concerns about the adequacy of the U.S. blood supply mounted. Concerns were based on the fear of fewer volunteer donors due to public misconceptions about the safety of blood donation, the potential impact of self-deferral of individuals in high-risk categories, and the increased loss of blood deemed unsafe for transfusion from contamination by infectious agents. While the amount of blood collected during the 1970s increased 40%, the number of units transfused increased 100%. This anomaly resulted from the fact that a single unit of whole blood can be converted to two or three transfusable component units (packed red cells, plasma, and/or platelets). During the 1970s, the number of units transfused as components increased 300%.[2]

Despite these concerns for adequacy of the supply and the continuing increase in demand for blood products, current analysis suggests an adequate pool of potential blood donors is likely to remain available for the foreseeable future. Present blood needs are met by about 8.8 million individuals who donate an average of 1.5 times annually.[2] Gregorio and Linden[3] concluded that of 175 million Americans of eligible age (ages 17-75), 64 million (37%) may be unsuited to give blood for either donor-safety or product-safety reasons. Despite the abundance of potential donors, both seasonal and regional blood shortages persist in the U.S. An expanded donor base would help ensure an adequate supply of transfusable blood is consistently available.[4]

FACTORS INFLUENCING THE DECISION TO DONATE

Motivations to donate blood vary and depend on several factors including age, gender, income, and educational status. Individuals most likely to donate blood are white (85%), males (60%), ages 30-35. Donors typically have some college or technical training and are from a household with a median income of at least $30,000.[2] The initial decision to donate is influenced by peers, a sense of community responsibility, and personal moral obligation.[5] First-time donors need to feel the rewards for donation outweigh the inconvenience. Educational efforts must quell apprehension while acknowledging forthrightly the fears and the minimal risks associated with donation.[6]

One threat to potential donors involves misconceptions regarding risks related to the process, especially in regard to potential human immunodeficiency virus infection. Polls conducted among U.S. adults in 1988 indicated 22% believed HIV could be acquired during blood donation. This finding represented a decline from 34% two years earlier.[7] Results of the National Adolescent Student Health Survey indicated that almost one-half (47%) the respondents in the school-age sample held this misconception.[8]

Most donor recruitment initiatives attempt to cultivate a commitment to donate regularly; persons may donate five times per year. …

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