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Why the Nation Needs a Diverse Blood Supply

Kate Fry, M.B.A., CAE

Chief Executive Officer, America’s Blood Centers

Blood disorders are not a choice for the millions of patients living with them. For individuals who are fortunate enough to not live with such disorders, there is a choice to ensure a safe and ready blood supply is available for patients in need. The nation’s blood supply depends on altruism in the form of blood donations from a diverse pool of donors. 

Such treatments can be a necessity for patients suffering from blood disorders. These individuals nationwide rely on community blood centers to collect, test, and provide blood to hospitals, securing its availability whenever and wherever it is needed. Diverse donors of all ages play a vital role in the work of community blood centers and healthcare providers assure patients that their blood needs will be met. 

Maintaining the supply

To maintain the U.S. blood supply, the importance of all eligible individuals donating blood is paramount, as blood only has a shelf life of 42 days. It takes 24-48 hours to process, test, and prepare a pint of blood for transfusion. With more than 30,000 pints of blood used daily in the United States, someone requires blood every 2 seconds. 

When receiving treatment for blood disorders like hemophilia, beta-thalassemia, and sickle cell disease, the need for blood is ongoing. America’s Blood Centers and its member blood centers need a diverse pool of donors of all ethnicities, and ages 16 or 17 years old and above depending on the state, to maintain the nation’s blood supply to meet the needs of the 1 in 7 patients entering a hospital that requires a transfusion.

Complex requirements

Did you know 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, such patients can develop antibodies that require a more precise ethnic or medically based match, highlighting the importance of diversity amongst all eligible blood donors. 

Estimates suggest that more than 60 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to give blood, yet less than 10 percent donate. This must change for the sake of all patients living with blood disorders, in addition to those individuals undergoing surgeries or receiving treatment for cancer. 

All eligible donors play an integral role. Together, you and your community blood centers are a key part of the nation’s healthcare system, connected by the goal of improving and saving lives. 

The challenges of the past year have demonstrated the resiliency and reliability of community blood centers and individuals throughout the United States to persevere in spite of unprecedented disruptions to ensure blood is available whenever and wherever needed. Blood donation must become a habit to replenish the nation’s blood supply, thereby preventing shortages that threaten access to lifesaving treatments to fight blood disorders. 

Help us continue to make a difference in your community by encouraging eligible donors to contact their local blood center to schedule and keep appointments to donate!

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