(RxWiki News) The demand for donor blood has increased significantly worldwide, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to urge individuals to voluntarily donate blood on a regular basis.
The increasing need affects low-income countries, often to prevent deaths during childbirth, as well as high income countries, including the United States.
"Ask the American Red Cross where you can donate blood."
Neelam Dhingra, MD, coordinator for Blood Transfusion Safety at WHO, said that with increasing life expectancy and the subsequent increase in age-related chronic diseases such as cancers, which require blood or blood products for treatment, demand is now greater than the available blood supply.
He noted that certain blood products, such as platelets, have a shelf life of only five days, making an increased number of blood donors critical.
In poor countries blood is often needed during childbirth or after delivery to treat severe bleeding. Transfusion is typically needed within one hour to prevent women from dying. Many transfusions also are offered to treat severe childhood anemia or congenital blood disorders.
However, the need is just as great in middle and high-income countries. Developed countries need to maintain stocks of donor blood for major surgeries such as heart or transplant operations.
Transfusions also are commonly used to treat trauma patients, or those with cancer or blood disorders.
Traffic accidents also have increased the need for blood products. Each year about 1.3 million die in car accidents worldwide, while up to 50 million are injured. WHO estimates that about 90 percent of those auto crashes occur in developing countries.
In order to meet the growing need, WHO is especially encouraging repeat blood donors. Globally, there are about 92 million blood donations annually, however, 30 million give blood only once and don't return. Most of those donors are not paid.
“We need to encourage these donors to come back and become repeat, regular donors,” says Dr. Dhingra. “Each blood donation is only 450 millilitters, and by having more repeat voluntary donors, we can better assure the reliability of blood supply and safety of blood and blood products.”