State Health Department Announces $500,000 Campaign to Recruit Blood Donors in New York State

With Pending FDA and American Red Cross Bans On Donors and A Need to Replenish Blood Supplies,
New Campaign Looks to Substantially Increase Donors, Especially Downstate

Albany, June 29, 2001 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. today announced that the State Health Department will immediately develop a statewide media campaign to help increase the number of blood donors in New York State. The new $500,000 campaign will help address some of the issues that will result from the pending federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and American Red Cross bans on blood donors who may have been exposed to mad cow disease in Europe.

"Ensuring that New York has adequate blood supplies now and into the future is critical for the health and safety of our residents, especially with the pending actions of the FDA and the American Red Cross. It's imperative that we continue to get the word out to New Yorkers that we need to increase the number of people donating blood in New York if we are going to meet the needs of this State," Dr. Novello said. "This campaign will inform New Yorkers of the vital importance of blood donations and the urgent need for more blood donors. We urge the FDA and the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to follow New York's lead by investing in a national donor recruitment campaign to ensure that blood supplies are adequate to meet the demands of New York and the nation."

The new campaign is in response to the pending FDA and American Red Cross bans on potential donors who have visited or lived in Europe, which would preclude them from donating blood because they may have been exposed to mad cow disease.

Ann M. Saunders, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Blood Services, New York–Penn Region, said, "We are extremely pleased that the State of New York and Commissioner Novello have made such a significant commitment to ensuring that New Yorkers understand the importance of donating blood, particularly with the FDA's pending ban and our intent to impose restrictions on potential donors who have recently lived or traveled in Europe. We cannot stress enough that those who donate blood may be saving someone's life – it is the ultimate gift."

"We are delighted that the New York State Department of Health is supporting the need for enhanced public education about donating blood," said Dr. Robert Jones, President and CEO of the New York Blood Center. "We will need new blood donors to offset lost donations as a result the pending FDA ban."

An estimated 60 percent of New Yorkers are eligible to be blood donors, but approximately four percent donate annually. Dr. Novello noted that fewer than 10 percent of eligible donors in the nation donate blood. If that percentage could be increased slightly, or if every current donor donated once more per year, shortfalls due to new donor criteria could be avoided.

To meet patient needs and the current shortness of blood supplies, blood banks around the State continue to work to maintain a three–day supply of blood for all types. However, recent data suggests that the current supplies of blood for types O and B are below a three–day supply.

The demand for blood remains ever–present because of the aging population and the increased need for blood transfusions due to the medical advances in organ transplantation, trauma, surgery and aggressive cancer treatment. Replacements are desperately needed as well for longtime donors who, because of ill health or other reasons, no longer can donate blood.

In addition, donations drop throughout the summer because many regular donors are on vacation or focusing on outdoor activities and recreation. That means donations are especially needed during the summer months and holidays when blood needs continue at typically high rates, but fewer units are donated, and thus available.

"This new campaign to increase the number of blood donors in New York State, especially in the downstate region, will not only pay dividends this year, but for many years to come," Dr. Novello said. "I urge all New Yorkers to visit a local blood donation center and donate their blood. There is a need for all types of blood. The life you save may be that of a friend, family member or your own."

Dr. Novello said, "If you are 17 years of age or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in general good health, you may be eligible to donate blood."

It is important to know that all blood and blood products collected in New York State meet or exceed state and federal safety guidelines. A new sterile needle is used for each blood donation and is immediately discarded afterward to ensure the process is safe.

Those residents living in upstate counties who wish to donate blood are urged to contact the American Red Cross at 1–800–272–4543. In the New York City Metropolitan area, residents may contact the New York Blood Center at 1–800–933–2566.

6/29/01–75 OPA