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New Jersey Workplace Blood Donor Coalition Focuses On Combating NJ Blood Shortage

Armen Hareyan's picture

New Jersey is facing a severe and chronic blood shortage. To address this potential crisis, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC) are joining forces to create the New Jersey Workplace Blood Donor Coalition. This partnership also will include New Jersey businesses as well as hospital and blood bank associations in an effort to increase workplace blood donations in the state.

Novartis will chair the coalition launched today at its headquarters in East Hanover, New Jersey.

The coalition will call upon employers to conduct more workplace blood drives each year and to increase the number of people in the state who routinely donate blood from 2.5 percent to the national average of 5 percent.

In 2007, New Jersey used 45,269 more units of blood than it collected. In the past, New Jersey has turned to other states when blood was needed. Now, these states are experiencing blood shortages of their own, and this alternative supply is becoming less available.

"Many New Jersey residents are quick to give blood in times of national crises or natural disasters, but we need donations on a regular basis to maintain a stable blood supply for daily medical and emergency needs," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard. "We look forward to help from the New Jersey business community to provide more opportunities for people to donate blood and do it on a more frequent basis to ensure that New Jersey has an adequate blood supply at all times."

Nine out of 10 people will need blood some time in their lives. Blood is in constant demand for treatment of injuries, cancer, and hemophilia and for use during surgery. The act of giving a pint of blood - the standard for blood donations - may save up to three lives. Workplace blood drives provide a convenient way for donors to give blood during the workday without leaving the office. For these reasons, the coalition has adopted the theme that Governor Corzine coined last year, "Save 3 Lives...All in a Day's Work."

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"Workplace donor campaigns are an integral part of our culture at Novartis, and I am proud to be involved as a founding member of this lifesaving task force," said Kevin Rigby, Vice President of NPC's Public Affairs, and Corporate Chair of the Coalition. "While blood is needed 365 days of the year and is already in short supply, we are entering the summer months - a time of even greater need for blood donation."

There are three major reasons most people give for not donating blood. It's not convenient; they haven't been asked; or they are unaware of the need. The Save 3 Lives campaign addresses these issues. Donating blood at the workplace only takes about an hour. Companies that host workplace blood drives generally enable their employees to donate on company time and all employees can be asked to participate. Employers can share information about the need for blood - and the importance of blood donation to public health - through blood drives and corporate communications.

It is especially important to encourage everyone in New Jersey's minority and multicultural communities to donate at all times throughout the year. As one of the most culturally diverse states in the nation, New Jersey needs to reach out to minority groups as their blood types are often in short supply.

For example, 25 percent of Asians and 18 percent of African Americans have B positive blood type while only nine percent of Caucasians and Hispanics have that type. In addition, some African-American patients have U negative or Duffy Negative blood types, which are rare. Patients with these blood types must depend on other African-Americans to supply this life-saving blood. Workplace blood donor drives offer opportunities to reach diverse ethnic groups.

In addition to NJDHSS and Novartis, the eight founding coalition members are MetLife, Capital One, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the New Jersey Hospital Association, Virtua Health, Educational Testing Service, New Jersey State Masonic Blood Program and the Blood Bank Task Force of New Jersey.

Their goals include expanding the size of the Coalition by 200 percent in the first year, and ensuring that New Jersey has an adequate blood supply at all times. Doubling the number of residents that donate blood on a regular basis would meet New Jersey's needs for blood donations.

Sixty percent of the adult population is eligible to donate blood. Specific requirements include being in good health, being at least 17 years old and weighing at least 110 pounds. People taking certain medications are not eligible to give blood. Healthy individuals over 75 years old must have written permission from their physician dated within two weeks of their donation.