Latinos Could Boost Blood Bank Supplies

By Pfister, Bonnie | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2007 | Go to article overview

Latinos Could Boost Blood Bank Supplies


Pfister, Bonnie, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


It's the end of summer, and blood banks are in their traditional jam. Since on-campus blood drives are a significant source of U.S. blood donation, supplies run low as students' summer vacations end, as well as during year-end holidays.

In the past few weeks, Pittsburgh's Central Blood Bank, which supplies the city's hospitals, and the chapter of the American Red Cross serving surrounding counties have put out calls for extra donations to fill the gap. But some public health experts think these groups are overlooking an important donor base: the region's small, but growing, Hispanic population.

New research from the University of Texas in Galveston suggests that more than half of Latin Americans tend to be "universal donors" -- those with Type O blood that can be transfused with any blood type. That's important to victims of sudden traumas such as car crashes or gunshot wounds, who find themselves in emergency rooms with no time to spare for a blood-type check.

"My feeling is (Hispanic donation) doesn't happen because we don't create the channels," said Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital and founder of its five-year- old bilingual clinic, Salud Para Ninos. "We cannot expect or wait for the community to come to us. They're not going to go to the office of a stranger."

The Texas researchers surveyed blood banks in Latin America, finding that O-positive donors range from 54 percent in Venezuela to 62 percent in Guatemala to 71 percent in Mexico. That corresponds roughly with what Chaves-Gnecco finds in his clinic. Extrapolating latest Census figures that find 23,000 Hispanics in Western Pennsylvania, he theorized that at least 14,000 would-be Type O donors who could be targeted for donation. …

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