By Tola Dehinde
Not too long ago, I was listening to the BBC London news, when it did a segment on sickle cell disease and the lack of black blood donors. The report was an interesting one, highlighting the story of a young lady who’s to have blood transfusion every six weeks. The reason why this report was aired was to encourage blacks to give blood because it is important for people from ethnic minority to give blood, so that this lady and thousands of others can be given blood from the right blood match. The report said there was an increase in black donors in the last year, disclosing that 40,000 more donors were needed.
A black blood scientist also talked about donating blood, saying the black community needed to step us. Apparently, some people in the black community are reluctant to give blood because they say that they don’t know where their blood will end and wonder if it will actually get to another black person. However, another man who was interviewed said when he gives blood, he gets a text telling him where blood donation has gone to and he knows that it’s to another black person desperately in need of the well matched blood.
After listening to the short segment, I decided to do some research online about barriers among us blacks to giving blood and trust Google, there were articles about it. It is time for us to educated ourselves:
Minority blood donations have historically been low in the US; increasing the proportion of minority donations is essential to reducing blood transfusion complications, especially in individuals with sickle cell disease and thalassemia for several reasons. SCD and thalasemia disproportionately affect minority racial and ethnic population in the developed world.
Individuals with haemoglobin disorders often need transfusions, sometimes chronically and intermittently. If exposed to unmatched blood donor, the risk is alloimmunisation which is the development of anti-bodies to the foreign red blood cells antigens. Increasing blood donations among minorities can ensure better access to minor antigen-matched units. However, strategies for promoting donations in this population require awareness of the unique characteristics of minority groups and blood donations, as well as programmes that address facilitators and barriers to minority blood donations.
Blood transfusions increase haemoglobin levels, increase blood flow, improve oxygen delivery to the tissues and dilute the abnormal red blood cells containing sickled haemoglobin, thus increasing the number of circulating normal red blood cells. Phenotypic incompatibility in blood transfusions result in the development of anti-bodies overtime that attack red blood cells, making subsequent transfusion less effective and increasing the risk of transfusion complications.
The principal barriers to blood donation are fear, inconvenience, perceived medical disqualification, being too busy, not being asked, and apathy. African-Americans more often than whites cited bad treatment and poor staff skills as reasons not to donate. In a study of young African-American women, the most important reason for not donating was inconvenience, followed by fear of needles and taking too much time.
Therefore, differences in motivators and barriers to blood donation among races may exist and affect donor recruitment and retention strategies.
A study of mailed sickle cell disease educational packets to increase blood donation within the African-American community resulted in a short-term but not a long-term increase in the number of African-American donors. Therefore, recruitment and retention of African-American blood donors may require continual education of the African-American community regarding the need for blood products, especially in the treatment of sickle cell disease patients. https://www.archivesofpathology.org/doi/pdf/10.1043/1543-2165-133.9.1444
Sub-Saharan Africans are under represented in the blood donor population in the Western high income countries. This causes a lack of specific blood types for transfusions and prevention of alloimmunisation among Sub-Sahara African patients. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tme.12517
I love it when scientist give reasons to issues from a scientific perspective. My take on the matter is that people need to be enlightened, educated about giving blood. I have spoken about giving blood to people, and their first response, without thinking it through, is to say no. I actually find it strange, and then I took time to explain how they would be doing something worthwhile and appreciated, which would be helping someone from their own ethnic background benefiting from their selfless act. Later, I saw a change of heart.
What I found interesting in the above articles was that the motivators for a white and black person are miles apart. Black people cited barriers to giving blood to include too long time in giving blood, inconvenience process and the treatment of the medical staff. I agree that with this sort of mentality, we need to educate our people more in order to comprehend the significance, relevance and life-saving experience it is to give blood. I believe that once black people understand better why they are being asked to give blood, more people will come forward. But they need to realise that it has to be a regular donation and not just a one-off wonder. The rule of thumb is that one must wait at least eight weeks to 16 weeks (56-112 days) between blood donations.
I also think one of the other factors is spirituality and fear; as they say, information is key but in places of faith, blood is associated with sacrifice of some sort and as such, a lot of people are frightened to give blood because they don’t know where their blood will end up. The Bible talks about ‘life in the blood’ and that is true, to give blood is to give life to someone else, to give blood is to save a life; to give blood is to help save someone in time of need.
Also, when living abroad, one can be preoccupied with many issues of life that one forgets about such matters as giving blood. Then again, we need to keep talking about this, until it becomes second nature to us to give blood, as blacks I mean.
I would like to encourage you, as you read this; if you know that you are fit and healthy; if you are age between 17-66 years old then please find time to walk into your local hospital and ask about giving blood if you can because I know for that there is another black person that you don’t know who needs the blood you are donating. If you live in Britain, go online to: www.blood.co.uk
If you would like to know more about sickle cell, go to: www.howtolivewithsicklecell.co.uk and if you would like to get in touch with me, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org