Since 1970, the United States has celebrated National Blood Donor Month every January. It is an opportunity for people to donate blood and platelets and help save lives. President Richard Nixon started the life-saving tradition.
However, January presents certain challenges to blood donation. For one, January is often characterized by harsh weather conditions following the holiday season, reducing donations—Also, seasonal illnesses like the flu force potential donors out of giving blood. Therefore, National Blood Donor Month reminds us of the ongoing need for blood donations.
National Blood Donor Month also raises awareness about the variety of blood types, transfusion requirements, and the strict safety protocols safeguarding each donor's health.
Featured in: January - Awareness Months, Days, and Observances
In January 1970, President Richard Nixon established National Blood Donor Month to encourage people to donate blood and save lives.
The late 1970s saw the introduction of the apheresis process, allowing for precise collection of blood components while safely returning the rest to the donor. This process marked a significant milestone in the field and remains in use today.
Another notable pioneer is Dr. Charles Drew. As the 'father of the blood bank,' his pioneering work on blood transfusions and storage during the 1930s and 40s laid the groundwork for current practices.
The history of National Blood Donor Month is a link in the historical chain of blood donation, reminding us that donating blood is a critical aspect of healthcare.
During National Blood Donor Month, we acknowledge the importance of blood donation and its impact on society. Every two seconds, a person in the US needs a blood donation, yet only 10% of eligible individuals donate. This gap strains the country's blood banks, especially during the winter.
There are many deterrents when it comes to donating blood3. First, some potential donors have a fear of needles, a common phobia. Additionally, people lack awareness of the eligibility criteria. There are also misconceptions about donating blood. The truth is donating blood is a relatively straightforward hour-long process involving a mini medical history test.
Other reasons are ineffective incentives, inconvenience, previous negative experiences, and more.
The logistical challenges of giving blood also complicate the matter. For instance, people in rural communities face difficulties accessing donation centers, leading to a significant blood deficit. Furthermore, donated blood has a limited storage life; red blood cells are only suitable for 42 days, while platelets are only good for five. So, blood banks need to replenish their blood supply regularly.
The American Red Cross comes to the fore during National Blood Donor Month, using social media and public service announcements. For instance, you might have seen their “Missing Types” campaign, removing letters A, B, and O from social media pages and websites. (Incidentally, O is the most requested blood type in hospitals.) They also partner with businesses to amplify their call for blood donations.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has started a "Safe Blood for All" program to achieve universal access to safe blood transfusions. In 2019, Facebook launched a feature that allows users to sign up as voluntary blood donors and receive notifications when nearby blood banks need donations.
Non-profit initiatives like Blood Centers of America's "Thanks for Giving" campaign thank and honor voluntary blood donors. In contrast, the South African National Blood Service's "New Blood" campaign targets younger donors by collaborating with schools and offering incentives.
During National Blood Donor Month, individuals can donate blood to help save lives. Blood banks and hospitals worldwide need it, and signing up to donate is easier than before, thanks to the digital age. You can also organize blood drives within your local community or workplace.
Moreover, you can explore various health resources, including websites, books, and documentaries, to better understand the process of giving blood. Afterward, share your newfound knowledge with others by posting on social media.
Finally, you can volunteer at a local blood bank and help out by registering donors or serving refreshments after donations. If you want to work online, you can host virtual fundraisers to raise money for the American Red Cross.
National Blood Donor Month is such an important observance. The month-long observation reminds us how donating blood saves many lives. It highlights the power of human connection, the ability to heal, and the gift of life. Finally, this occasion is a call to action.
A single donation can create a positive shift that can bring hope to those in despair. Every gift can inspire change, one step at a time.
People 17 years older and above, in good health, and weighing at least 110 pounds can give blood.
You can give blood every 56 days or approximately every two months.
Yes, donating blood is safe. Medical techs use sterile equipment for every donation while screening all donors for eligibility.
The whole process, including registration and post-donation refreshments, takes about an hour. However, the actual donation takes only ten minutes.
Once you donate blood, it undergoes careful testing, processing, and storing before distribution to hospitals and medical facilities.
To, L., Dunnington, T., Thomas, C., Love, K., McCullough, J., & Riley, W. J. (2019). The United States’ potential blood donor pool: updating the prevalence of donor‐exclusion factors on the pool of potential donors. Transfusion, 60(1), 206–215.
Jones, J. M., Sapiano, M. R. P., Mowla, S., Bota, D., Berger, J. J., & Basavaraju, S. V. (2021). Has the trend of declining blood transfusions in the United States ended? Findings of the 2019 National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey. Transfusion, 61(S2).
Bednall, T. C., & Bove, L. L. (2011). Donating blood: A meta-analytic review of self-reported motivators and deterrents. Transfusion Medicine Reviews, 25(4), 317-334.