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Blood Health

Ensuring the Availability of the Nation’s Blood Supply for All

Kate Fry, MBA, CAE

Chief Executive Officer, America’s Blood Centers

A safe and ready blood supply must be constantly maintained to meet the needs of 1 in 7 patients entering a hospital. Whether for undergoing surgeries or for receiving treatment for cancer or rare blood disorders such as hemophilia, beta thalassemia, and sickle cell disease, the need for blood is continuous.

America’s Blood Centers and its member blood centers rely on the altruism of a diverse pool of donors of all ethnicities, and people ages 16 or 17 and above depending on the state, to ensure the availability of blood for all patients.

Maintaining the blood supply

Patients nationwide rely on community blood centers to collect, test, and provide blood to hospitals, ensuring both the safety and availability of blood whenever and wherever it is needed. Once donated, it takes 24-48 hours to process, test, and prepare a pint of blood for transfusion, requiring blood to already be available for regular patient use or in times of emergency.

With more than 30,000 pints of blood used daily in the United States and a shelf life of only 42 days for red blood cells and five days for platelets, there is constant demand. As someone requires blood every three seconds, the importance of all eligible individuals donating blood is paramount to maintaining the American blood supply.

The need for diverse donors

Diverse donors of all ages help community blood centers and health care providers assure patients that their blood needs will be met. Individuals receiving treatments for sickle cell disease and certain blood disorders may have more complex blood compatibility needs due to the frequency in the number of blood transfusions they receive as part of their treatment. These patients can develop antibodies that require a more precise ethnic or medically-based match, highlighting the need for diversity among all eligible blood donors. For example, sickle cell disease affects 8 to 10 percent of all African Americans and requires patients to regularly receive blood transfusions that are more precisely matched, but only 5 percent of current blood donors are African American.

Donation eligibility

A recent report indicated that more than 60 percent of the American population is eligible to give blood, yet less than 10 percent actually give even once during the course of a year. Type O– blood is the universal donor and can transfused to any other blood type. However, only 8 percent of the United States population has O– blood, increasing the need for a large, diverse base of donors daily.

Together, you and your community blood centers are an important part of the nation’s healthcare system united by the goal of improving and saving lives. Help make a difference within your community, and encourage friends and family to join you by contacting a local blood center and scheduling an appointment to donate.

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