Give Back and Give Blood to Black Communities

While blood donors who are Black play a crucial role in helping people with their selfless donation, there are not nearly enough donors to help meet a growing and urgent need.  

According to the American Red Cross, individuals in the Black community make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, however they represent less than 3 percent of blood donors.  

Since the beginning of the year a host of organizations and groups are ensuring that people not only learn about the importance of blood donations but encouraging them to step up and do it for the culture, too.  

Dr. Robertson Davenport, the director of transfusion medicine at the University of Michigan Health, has passed along the following statement:   

“Michigan Medicine relies on the generous support of the entire community to assure the best blood transfusion support for our patients. Diversity of the blood supply is important. Transfusion requires that the blood be matched to the patient. Particularly when a patient has special needs, it is most likely that a donor from a similar background will be a match. Sickle cell disease is a case in point. Unfortunately, sickle cell disease predominantly affects the African American community and many patients with sickle cell disease need repeated transfusions. The best donors for these patients are usually from the African American community. I personally want to thank all the donors who selflessly give of themselves for our patients.”  

The American Red Cross agrees.  

“Your single blood donation may even help save more than one life,” the organization noted.   

Donating blood is more important than ever given severe weather conditions in the Detroit metropolitan area, which caused over 300 blood drives to be canceled across the country – resulting in about 9,000 blood and platelet donations going uncollected.   

“It’s a selfless act and could help save lives. Blood donations help ensure new moms, premature babies, cancer patients and accident victims have access to safe, lifesaving blood,” Jamila Wilson, a donor recruitment account manager with the Red Cross in Michigan, said in a press release.  

More than 600 known red blood cell antigens exist in addition to the well-known blood types A, B, O, and AB, and some of these antigens are exclusive to particular racial and ethnic groupings. Ro, for instance, is a haplotype or Rh antigen. People of Black or African heritage are more than 10 times more likely to have this haplotype than people of European descent. This information is crucial for satisfying the transfusion demands of sickle cell disease patients who are primarily Black people in the United States. The Red Cross and other blood donation organizations are more likely to locate the best blood product match from a Black donor if a patient has this haplotype.  

“Community partnerships demonstrate that when we care for our community together, we can make a difference,” said Dr. Yvette Miller, executive medical officer of Red Cross Blood Services. “Sickle cell disease has few visible symptoms. Many individuals battling this disease often look healthy despite suffering in pain. The mission of the Red Cross is to alleviate human suffering. We are doing that by advocating for patients battling this cruel disease to improve access to the most compatible blood products and find ways the Black community and community at large can support the transfusion needs of patients.”  

Additionally, blood type O, which is the most commonly transfused blood type in the U.S., is positive in almost 50 percent of the African American population. O-positive donors of all origins are required to maintain a healthy blood supply since type O-positive blood is one of the first types to run out during a shortage owing to high demand.  

Even closer blood type matches than the common ones are necessary for some patients. A sickle cell patient might require an exact match with a blood donor, particularly if repeated transfusions are required. A patient may develop antibodies against the mismatched antigens if they get a transfusion of blood that is not a close match.  

Help ensure that patients have easy access to this life-saving resource at this time. Schedule a life-saving donation appointment and locate a blood donation center right away.  

Sickle cell disease (the most common genetic blood disease in the U.S.) is more common in African Americans in the U.S. compared to other ethnicities, and donating blood can help patients with this disease among other ailments.  

“It is essential that the blood they receive be the most compatible match possible, which generally comes from someone of the same race or similar ethnicity,” according to the organization.  

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