Black History Month Marks Importance of Diverse Donors

February 11, 2010
Blood donors from diverse backgrounds can take their place in history by making and keeping an appointment to help save a life during Black History Month.
African-Americans have a distinguished history in shaping blood services programs within the American Red Cross. In the 1940s, medical researcher Dr. Charles Drew laid the groundwork for today’s modern blood donation program through his innovative work in blood banking. And the world-renowned Holland Research Laboratory in Rockville, Md., bears the name of educator and U.S. Ambassador Jerome Holland who streamlined the growth of Red Cross laboratories in the early 1980s.
“African-Americans have played a key role in modern blood banking,” said Randy Edwards, CEO for the Southern Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross. “Black History Month is a great way to recognize that legacy, and to encourage donors of all ethnicities to give blood.”
African-Americans have the power to make a unique contribution to America’s blood supply, because more than 50 percent of African-Americans have type O blood, which is routinely in short supply and in high demand by hospitals. About 20 percent of African-Americans also have type B blood, which is higher than other populations. Several rare blood types are also unique to the African-American community.
“We need donors of all ethnicities to help meet patient needs,” said Edwards adding that the most compatible blood for some seriously ill patients is most likely to come from someone with the same ethnic or genetic background. “Sometimes, it’s that single donation from a particular person that can make a difference in someone’s life.”
The American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region provides lifesaving blood to more than 120 hospitals and must have 1,200 people give blood and platelets each weekday to meet hospital demand. Accident victims as well as patients with cancer, sickle cell disease, blood disorders and other illnesses receive lifesaving transfusions every day. There is no substitute for blood and volunteer donors are the only source.
Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Most healthy people age 17 and older, or 16 with parental consent, who weigh at least 110 pounds, are eligible to donate blood and platelets. Donors who are 18 and younger must also meet specific height and weight requirements.
For more information or to locate a nearby blood drive, please call 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767).