Donor Disparity and the Need for Diverse Donors
Versiti acknowledges that a distrust of the American health care system – for valid historical reasons – has made it challenging to recruit minority blood donors. Shameful incidences of systemic racism and discrimination such as the infamous Tuskegee Study and the treatment of Henrietta Lacks, as well as disparities in health outcomes among different ethnicities, have understandably contributed to many minorities’ uncertainty around blood donation and an unwillingness to donate. Blood banks, too, have often failed to address the concerns and assuage the fears of these potential donors.
Overall, 38% of the general population in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood, but less than 10% do so annually, and these donors are disproportionately white. According to a 2011 study from Emory University, only 16% of Black individuals donate blood.
Versiti invites donors of all ethnicities to donate their lifesaving blood. The more units of blood on hand from diverse donors, the more patients we are able to serve.
Rare Blood Initiatives
Did you know that besides the familiar A, B, AB and O blood groups, there are more than 30 other blood groups containing different proteins and antigens? Some of these rare blood types - like Ro – are only found in certain patient populations.
The incredibly rare Ro blood type is found in only 4% of our donors – but is crucial for the many sickle cell disease patients who rely on frequent transfusions of this matched blood and who are predominantly of African descent. Learn about our Ro Blood Type Donor Program.
Sickle cell patients may require chronic blood transfusions to treat their disease, and many feel the most healthy after they receive blood. Since 44% of African Americans have Ro blood, providing matched Ro blood to sickle cell patients may provide a safer blood transfusion and additional benefits.
Versiti has received awards from the American Rare Donor Program for providing the greatest number of rare blood units. With the combined expertise of Versiti blood centers, we possess an unrivaled ability to comprehensively support more than 10 different sickle cell disease programs across the United States.
Research and Discovery Around Iron Deficiency
Anemia is the most common blood disorder in the United States. It affects your red blood cells and hemoglobin, which is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. You need iron in order to make hemoglobin. Most people who have anemia have a shortage of iron, or iron deficiency anemia. The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia is 2% in adult men, 9-12% in non-Hispanic white women, and nearly 20% in black and Mexican-American women.
A Versiti Blood Research Institute team led by Alan E. Mast, MD, PhD, Senior Investigator, participates in the National Institutes of Health’s REDS (Recipient Epidemiology and Donor Evaluation Study) program. Its previous findings have advanced knowledge on blood donors and recipients, including iron levels in donors.