TAMIL NADU

Blood donation not a habit among Chennai youth

CHENNAI DEC. 4. Blood banks are able to meet only 40 per cent of the city's needs because youth here are not in the habit of donating blood, except during a crisis involving their family or friends, says Saranya Narayan, managing trustee, Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre. In Chennai, only 2 lakh units of blood are available to meet the needs of 6.2 million people.

An ongoing survey by the Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre, among more than 3,200 pre-employment candidates, aged between 20 and 30, revealed that only 43 per cent of the men and 28 per cent of the women ever donated blood.

More than 60 per cent of the candidates donated blood only once and fewer than 10 per cent, more than four times.

The reasons range from lack of opportunity and interest to misconceptions of blood donation and concerns over the safety of the blood banks. Almost 90 per cent of the candidates said they did not know the location of blood banks. More than 70 per cent said they did not donate blood simply because no one ever asked them to. Several of the candidates, who had donated blood, were direct donors to their relatives during an emergency. ``There is a high risk associated with direct donations because there is not much time to screen the blood for a host of infectious diseases,'' says Dr. Narayan. ``Blood on the shelf is always safer because the window period for infectious diseases to show up has elapsed.''

With the number of recipients increasing and only direct donors coming forward, the blood bank decided to take its campaign to the streets. A mobile blood van was introduced in 2002. The van, stationed outside colleges and shopping malls, has generated more response, says Dr. Narayan. Blood donations in recent months have increased by 10 per cent. To make it a habit, corporate companies should hold blood donation camps every three months. Maybe, donation can even be made a pre-requisite for getting a driving licence. Dr. Srinivasan says if one million of the city's population decides to donate blood at least twice a year, its blood needs will be met.

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