Donating blood is a selfless act, and as with many altruistic behaviors, it’s not always easy to convince people to take a couple of hours out of their day to do it.
Facebook’s “Blood Donation” tool, which seeks to connect willing blood donors with blood banks in need, launched in select cities across the United States on Wednesday, just a few days before World Blood Donor Day on June 14.
Cliff Numark, senior vice president of the American Red Cross, told USA TODAY that getting people to sign up to donate blood is the No. 1 challenge they face. Facebook aims to help solve that problem.
A Facebookrelease by Hema Budaraju, the company’s health product director, said Facebook hopes to make it easier for people to find opportunities to donate and to raise awareness about blood donations across the country.
The opportunity to sign up as a donor will be available in Washington, D.C., New York, Baltimore, the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago, before the feature rolls out to the entire nation in the coming months, according to the release.
Users can navigate to the “About” section of their profile to sign up. When blood banks are in need, they can send out requests to users signed up in the area and potential donors will be notified.
“The notion of getting people to give blood started in US and other countries as a community endeavor,” Numark said.
Traditionally, the Red Cross has reached out to community groups – including places of worship, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, high schools, universities – to ask them to donate. But now, Numark said, while they are still reaching out to those groups, it makes sense to expand.
He sees what Facebook is doing as something that could help increase blood donor sign ups in the USA.
“The definition of community has changed over the past decade or more, and there is a real community on social networks,” Numark said.
According to the Red Cross, someone needs blood in the United States every two seconds, and just one donation is capable of saving up to three lives. Blood and platelets can’t be manufactured and must come from donors. And every day patients need donations from 13,000 blood donors and thousands more platelet donors, Numark said.
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While the company launched the feature in the United States this week, it has already seen successful abroad, according to Facebook.
By January of this year, more than 35 million people had signed up to be blood donors via “Facebook Blood Donations,” according to the company. In 2017, the platform began partnering with blood donation centers around the globe, including ones in Brazil, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Centers in Brazil and India reported that 20% of people donating said Facebook influenced their decision to do so. Donors were surveyed in-person at Facebook’s partner blood banks, according to the release.
Facebook said in the release that it hopes the feature will help Americans become more aware of the need for donations and that communities will come together and make sure that safe blood is accessible to all who need it.
“The No. 1 reason people don’t give blood is because they’re not asked, and the reason we’re thrilled about this is because it’s going to deliver the ask,” Numark said.
Follow Morgan Hines on Twitter: @MorganEmHines.
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