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Blood, it runs in the family: How Families Can Shape the Future of Blood Donation

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

As blood banks are confronted with numerous challenges—an aging donor population, the need for ethnically diverse donors, and a plasma donor shortage—the urgency to understand how individuals learn to donate blood and to develop sustainable strategies to build a robust donor pool has never been greater. In this landscape, the role of family in shaping the identities and behaviors of blood donors has been overlooked by both researchers and practitioners. The latest research by Alexandra Ciaușescu, Dr. Arjen de Wit, Prof. Dr. René Bekkers, and Prof. Dr. Eva-Maria Merz, sheds light on how donor parents are shaping the next generation of donors

Key Takeaways

  • Family Matters: One third (37.7%) of the Dutch blood donor population is part of a blood-donor family (has either a parent or child that is a blood products donor too), highlighting the important place of donor families within the donor pool.

  • Donor Identity Plays a Role: The more parents view blood donation as an integral part of their identity—as opposed to an occasional weekend activity— the more their children are likely to adopt this behavior and become blood donors themselves.

  • Frequency Counts: The more often parents donate, the more opportunities children have to observe this behavior, making them more likely to become donors themselves.

  • The Timing Factor: Children are more likely to become donors when their parents donate when they are between 19-22 years old compared to if the child is older or younger than that.

Practical Suggestions for Blood Banks

  • Family-Centric Events: Consider organizing Open Days or Family Donation Drives to ignite discussions about blood donation among family members and facilitate conversations between parents and children.

  • Child-Friendly Spaces: Creating special areas at blood collection sites where parents can bring their children and have the children wait and learn about blood donation while the parent is donating can familiarize the child with this process, offering an early introduction to the importance of blood donation.

Conclusion Donor parents can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of blood donation in the Netherlands, and potentially in other European countries as well. By understanding the transmission processes between donor parents and their children, blood banks can fine-tune their recruitment strategies. For a deeper dive into the research, the full preprint of our study, "Blood, it runs in the family: Intergenerational transmission of blood-donor behaviour," is available here.


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