February is Black History Month – a time to honor the significant achievements of Black Americans to U.S. society while making an impact today. This year’s theme focuses on the importance of Black health and wellness. In recognition, the American Red Cross is paying tribute to the legacy of Dr. Charles Drew, continuing efforts to eliminate health disparities through its Sickle Cell Initiative and encouraging individuals to give blood to ensure a diverse blood supply to improve the health outcomes of patients.
Dr. Drew, an African American surgeon and researcher, was named medical director of the Red Cross National Blood Collection Program in February 1941. He pioneered ways to store blood for transfusion and opened blood banks across the U.S. to collect lifesaving blood and plasma to treat hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians during World War II. Dr. Drew’s efforts to increase and preserve the nation’s blood supply led to the use of bloodmobiles and other processes utilized today to help save lives.
Continuing a lifesaving legacy
In the U.S., it is estimated that over 100,000 people – the majority of whom are of African descent – have sickle cell disease and may require blood transfusions throughout their lifetime. Despite the discovery of sickle cell disease more than a century ago, there has been fewer health resources available to help those currently suffering in comparison to similar diseases.
The Red Cross Sickle Cell Initiative seeks to raise awareness about this health disparity and increase much-needed blood donations from individuals who are Black to support patients with sickle cell by providing closely matched donations of the same blood type, race, or similar ethnicity to help reduce transfusion complications.
With blood transfusions remaining one of the most critical treatments for patients with sickle cell, donors can honor Drew’s lifesaving legacy by rolling up a sleeve to give blood. This year’s Black History Month comes as the Red Cross is experiencing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Individuals of all blood types are urged to make an appointment now to give blood or platelets in the weeks ahead by using the Red Cross Blood DonorApp, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Those who come to give blood or platelets Feb. 1-28, 2022, will receive a $10 Amazon.com Gift Card via email, thanks to Amazon.*
Health insights for donors
At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease who require trait-negative blood. Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.