Young man on blood donation at medical clinic

RCSI research to increase blood donations from ethnic minorities

  • Research
  • Society

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells and requires those affected to have regular blood transfusions. It is a disease that is more common among people with an African or Caribbean family background.

Blood donations in general and in particular donations from people from ethnic minority groups in Ireland are in seriously short supply due to barriers preventing people from ethnic minorities in coming forward to make donations.

A study by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, entitled ‘Motivators and barriers to blood donation among potential donors of African and Caucasian ethnicity’ is the first of its kind to explore the issue of ethnic differences in blood donations across different ethnic groups in Ireland.

Communication and motivation

The study helps us to understand why these groups are under-represented and how to communicate with people from different ethnic backgrounds in blood donation recruitment campaigns.

The results of the research revealed that barriers to blood donations among non-Caucasian respondents included lack of information and a history of living in a malaria-endemic region.

Factors that were found to motivate people from minority ethnic backgrounds to give blood included religious reasons and a desire to help others in their own communities.

The findings will inform future recruitment campaigns to increase the provision of blood available for transfusion for all patients including those with conditions such as sickle cell disease.

Medical collaboration

The study was developed as part of the RCSI Student Innovation Challenge during the RCSI Research Summer School, which gives students the opportunity to develop solutions to pressing medical needs.

Over 380 people took part in the study. RCSI students and RCSI Student Innovation Challenge winners Muskan Sardana, Luke Sheridan, Phoebe Chieng and Sarah Kelly are co-authors on the paper.

The study was performed in collaboration with the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, School of Medicine (all RCSI), the Haematology Department at St James’s Hospital and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service in the National Blood Centre, Dublin.

The work was performed within the Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Programme, supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Health Research Board, the Health Service Executive, National Doctors Training and Planning and the Health and Social Care, Research and Development Division, Northern Ireland.

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.