Sweden has rolled out several interesting new initiatives to tackle shortages of blood and keep its blood donors coming back to more consistent deposits.
One approach that has caught the public’s attention is a service that sends donors a text message which tells them when their blood has been used. Donors will first receive a thank you message just after donating, but then later once their blood has been used to help another person, the donors are informed of that momentous moment.
The Independent reported communications manager at the Stockholm blood service Karolina Blom Wiberg saying “We want to give them feedback on their effort, and we find this is a good way to do that.”
The service says the positive feedback to the donor about how they’ve helped out a fellow citizen encourages them to donate again.
“Our challenge is to make the public and especially the blood donators understand just how important their contribution is,” said Ms Blom Wiberg.
The initiative was implemented in Stockholm about three years ago and has been rolled out graduated to other areas around Sweden after positive reception.
Social media has taken notice of this strategy as well and people are loving it as more are starting to talk about blood donation with their peers. It seems the strategy not only helps donors to come back and donate again but is also helping raise awareness on the subject.
“It’s a great feeling to know you made such a big difference and maybe even saved someone else’s life,” says Ms Blom Wiberg.
“We get a lot of visibility in social media and traditional media thanks to the SMS. But above all we believe it makes our donors come back to us, and donate again.”
A different communications manager at Stockholm’s blood centre Lottie Furugård said, “Social media is an extremely important channel for us to reach our donors. Sweden needs more young donors to have a stable blood supply in the future.”
Other initiatives by Sweden to encourage blood donation include letting donors agree to be pestered by authorities via text, Facebook, and email until they donate blood. The Independent reported that messages include light-hearted threats such as: “We won’t give up until you bleed”.
How cute is that?
Blood donation in Singapore
In Singapore, like most developed countries, blood donation is on a steady decline.
According to Mr Benjamin William, secretary-general and CEO of Singapore Red Cross (SRC) who spoke to The New Paper (TNP) in July, between 2008 and 2018, there was a decline of nearly 23,000 donors to 18,000 among 16 to 25-year-olds.
Young people, especially, are not donating much in Singapore.
Telling TNP that Singaporeans have taken for granted that there would always be a supply of blood, Mr William said: “We have reached this complacent stage that whenever I need blood, there will be blood. We cannot continue to think that blood donation is someone else’s responsibility and not mine.”
According to the Health Sciences Authority, Singapore needs about 325 units of blood a day and 118,750 units a year as of 2018. However, in that same year, only 115,826 whole units of blood were donated.
Mr William pointed out that there is usually a spike in blood donations after a sudden crisis or civil emergency, but since blood in its complete form can only be stored up to 35 days after being donated, there is only a limited amount that blood banks can store at any given time.
What the country needs, rather, is a steady supply of blood to be donated throughout the year.
“Blood is not like money. You cannot have 100,000 people donate blood in one day. It may be wasted,” said Mr William.
“You need people to be donating regularly, not do it as a one-off.”
Helpfully, the SRC website has a meter which shows the latest levels of blood supply available in Singapore. For example, as of 7 October, the stock of O negative blood is at a critical level while A negative is low. These two blood types are most in need of new supply right now.
In terms of recognising the efforts of blood donors in order to encourage repeat donations, the Red Cross also gives out medals once a year to donors who have hit donation milestones.
For example, a person who makes 25 donations will earn a bronze medal while a male who makes 100 donations or a female who makes 70 donations will be awarded a gold medal. For a male who has made his 200th donation and a female who has made her 150th donation, they get a ‘Medal for Life’.
The specially engraved medals are given out at the Champion Blood Donor Recognition Ceremony by SRC on World Blood Donor Day. A token of appreciation is also given to donors who have donated blood on their birthday or during their birthday month, donated at least 3 times in a year, and have donated their 5th or 10th packet of blood.