• blood donation

Voluntary blood donation must be improved to ensure better patient outcomes

12 Jun 2018

Washington, D.C., June 12, 2018 (PAHO / WHO) - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) calls for intensified efforts to improve systems based on voluntary unpaid blood donation in order to prevent millions of deaths per year, including from postpartum hemorrhage, road traffic accidents and various forms of cancer.

The theme of this year's World Blood Donor Day celebrated on June 14, is ‘Be there for someone else. Give blood. Share life'. The theme draws attention to the role that voluntary blood donation systems play in encouraging people to care for each other. It also serves as an opportunity to highlight the importance of supporting countries in making faster progress towards the development of national blood systems that ensure availability of, and access to, safe blood and blood products.

"If we want to achieve the goal of 100% voluntary blood donation, the organization of health services, and in particular blood services, must be more efficient," said Dr. Francisco Becerra-Posada, Assistant Director of PAHO. "We at PAHO will continue working with our Member States to move towards improving health services and ensuring access to blood and blood products, key pillars of Universal Health."

Voluntary blood donation in Latin America

As of 2015, just 45% of blood for transfusions in Latin America and the Caribbean was obtained through voluntary donation. While this represents an increase from 38.5% in 2013, it is still far less than the 100% goal recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to ensure a sufficient and safe blood supply for transfusions.

"Voluntary, unpaid blood donation is vital to ensuring that health systems can offer safe, equitable and efficient health services to populations," said Mauricio Beltran Duran, Regional Advisor for Blood and Transplant Services at PAHO. "We know that blood availability has a knock-on effect on other health outcomes so it is vital that countries prioritize this area."

According to Beltran Duran, one example of this is the clear link between blood availability and maternal mortality in the Americas.

Countries with safe and efficient blood donation systems are much more likely to meet patient needs when it comes to childbirth complications such as postpartum hemorrhage and as a result, save lives.

"It is essential that each country puts into practice policies, systems, and structures that guarantee the safety, quality, and availability of blood and blood products to meet the needs of all patients that require them," he added. "Ensuring the solidarity of communities to participate in the simple, yet important, act of giving blood is a vital part of this."

PAHO, which serves as Regional Office for the Americas of WHO is working with its member countries towards the ambitious but achievable goal of 100% voluntary blood donation by 2019.

World Blood Donor Day

Every year, on 14 June, countries all over the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day. The event serves to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood and to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure the quality, safety, and availability of blood and blood products for patients in need.

Transfusion of blood and blood products helps save millions of lives every year. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with a higher quality of life, and supports complex medical and surgical procedures. It also has an essential, life-saving role in maternal and neonatal care and during man-made and natural disasters.

However, in many countries, demand exceeds supply, and blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety. An adequate supply can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary, unpaid blood donors.

Dominican Republic hosts World Blood Donor Day in the Americas

The Dominican Republic, which is hosting this year's regional World Blood Donor Day event for the Americas, is one of the countries in the region that is working to improve its network of blood services, including through efforts to increase the percentage of unpaid, voluntary donors.

In 2014, the country implemented a National Blood Policy, which establishes a clear strategy for ensuring access to quality blood and blood products, through blood banks and transfusion services, as well as the rational use of these products.

A commemorative event will be held in the Dominican Republic on 14 June 2018. During the event, health authorities from across Latin America will meet to discuss the implementation of integrated blood networks to improve access to, and the availability of, safe blood and blood products.