Every year, on June 14th, countries all around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day. The holiday was established in 2004 by the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to both raise awareness about the need for blood donations all over the globe and to acknowledge and appreciate blood donors for their gifts. The holiday is held on June 14th because it was the birthday of Karl Landsteiner, an Austrian physician and biologist (not to mention Nobel Prize winner) who discovered and classified the ABO blood groups at the turn of the 20th century. It’s because of his discovery that doctors became able to transfuse blood from one patient to another, and thus save countless lives. Every year, the WHO comes up with a theme to celebrate World Blood Donor Day such as “give the gift of life” or “blood connects us all.” Read on for more information about this supremely important public health holiday.
Why World Blood Donor Day is Important
A. It saves lives
Before blood transfusions became a regular medical practice, lives were regularly lost as a result of an inadequate blood supply. Blood donations end up supporting a wide variety of medical needs, from pre-planned, minor procedures to emergency surgeries. Blood transfusions are an important part of the planned treatment of cancer patients or expecting mothers, as well as vital in case of disasters or car crashes.
B. There’s always a need for more blood donations
Blood donation is a quick, easy, and incredibly safe process, but only a small subsection of the population are regular blood donors. Out of the people who are considered “eligible” to donate blood, only about 10 percent choose to do so. Because blood donation is an entirely voluntary process, World Blood Donor Day is an important reminder of how there can never be such a thing as “too many blood donations.” In the United States alone, someone needs blood every two seconds!
C. It's a global issue
Having an adequate blood supply is, obviously, necessary in every country on earth. Right now, many developed countries are able to rely on voluntary, unpaid blood donations to meet 100% of their blood supply needs. But finding those volunteers and making sure the blood is safe is still a big issue in developing countries, and they often have to rely on either family or paid donations. The WHO is working hard to ensure that, in the near future, blood donations all over the world will be entirely unpaid and voluntary.
How to Observe World Blood Donor Day
1. Give blood!
If you’re eligible to donate blood, you only need to dedicate about an hour of your day to this live-saving process. Once you arrive for your donation and check in, you’ll be given a mini-physical to make sure that you’re healthy enough to donate blood. The actual blood donation process only takes a little over ten minutes—typically, they take about one pint of blood per person. Once you’ve finished, they’ll give you some refreshments (read: free snacks!) to make sure ready to get back to your normal life.
2. Spread the word
If you either can’t donate blood or can’t find the time, spreading the word about the importance of World Blood Donor Day can be hugely impactful. Tell your friends, family, colleagues, and social media followers how important blood donations are. Many people are unaware of how easy the process is, so word-of-mouth is incredibly helpful in inspiring future blood donors.
3. Find an event near you
Look online to see if there are any special events in your area, such as rallies or pop-up donation sites, to celebrate World Blood Donor Day. Many blood centers, hospitals, and volunteers set up special, fun events on June 14th to celebrate the holiday and maximize blood donations. Again: there’s a very good chance of free snacks.