While blood donations in high-income countries around the world have increased by 25 percent over the last decade, efforts are being made to increase falling rates in new volunteers. According to a report released last week by the UK-based NHS Blood and Transplant organisation, there are now 40 percent fewer new blood donors in the UK than there were 10 years ago, and they need around 204,000 new volunteers to give blood this year to keep their stocks at a 'safe' level.
Similar rates of decline have also been seen in Sweden, so a Stockholm-based blood service called Blodcentralen has come up with a pretty great way to encourage people to donate and continue donating - they let them know exactly when their blood has been used to treat a patient.
"We want to give [donors] feedback on their effort, and we find this is a good way to do that," Karolina Blom Wiberg from Blodcentralen told Jon Stone at The Independent. "It's a great feeling to know you made such a big difference and maybe even saved someone else's life."
The automated text message service works by first thanking the donors when they give blood, and then updating them every time their blood is given to a patient. The program was launched three years ago by Blodcentralen, and thanks to the positive response from the public, other blood donation services around Stockholm and elsewhere in Sweden have been using it.
In some facilities, the public can see a chart that's updated in real-time to show how much blood is actually left, and the urgency might encourage people to make the effort to donate. "The same info as we have internally is shown externally," said Blom Wiberg. "Our challenge is to make the public and especially the blood donators understand just how important their contribution is."
We could really use a service like this in Australia. According to the ABC, one in three Australians will need a blood transfusion during their lifetime, and only one in 30 are regularly donating, which means something has to give.
"We simply can't ignore the fact that there has been a stark reduction in the number of new donors coming forward, a trend seen across the world," Jon Latham from the NHS Blood and Transplant donor services told the press in a statement. "While we can meet the needs of patients now, it's important we strengthen the donor base for the future."
Efforts are also being made to get brands, retailers and celebrities in on the movement to encourage blood donations. It shouldn't be that hard - there's no greater feeling than when you've made a true difference to someone else's life, let alone saved it, so hopefully we'll see a whole lot more of those text messages in the future.
H/T The Independent