April is National Minority Health Month — a time to raise awareness about health disparities that disproportionately affect racially and ethnically diverse populations. Throughout the month, the American Red Cross is encouraging action through access to care, health education and management of disease complications by inspiring eligible donors to give blood.
Disease burdens such as sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia major, maternal and infant mortality remain higher among communities of color. According to the Population Reference Bureau, premature or preterm birth before 37 weeks of gestation is one of the most common causes of infant mortality in the U.S., with women who are Black over 50% more likely to deliver a premature baby compared to women who are white. Having a strong and diverse blood supply is important to improving the health of these populations and helping to save lives.
Bridgette Turner knows firsthand the lifesaving impact a generous blood donor can make. While pregnant with her daughter Brielle, Bridgette and her husband were advised to deliver Brielle preterm when the baby’s heart rate suddenly began dropping. At 29 weeks old, Brielle was born weighing two pounds, three ounces and unable to breathe on her own without the help of a ventilator.
While in the hospital, Brielle experienced anemia of prematurity, a severe type of anemia that most commonly affects infants who are less than 32 weeks old when they are unable to produce new blood cells independent of their mother. To treat her low red cell counts, Brielle needed four blood transfusions.
“My daughter would not be here today, and I would not be able to see her smiling face if not for the people who donated blood,” said Brigette. “Being a blood donor before my daughter was born – I wasn’t connected to my reasoning . . . it wasn’t personal. When I had my daughter, that’s when I knew [giving blood] was a commitment I needed to do.”
During Black Maternal Health Week, April 11 – 17, the Red Cross is raising awareness about maternal health in the Black community and the impact of blood transfusions for mothers and infants in crisis.
Blood donations remain essential to the health of communities. Individuals of all blood types are urged to make an appointment now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Those who come to give blood, platelets or AB Elite plasma April 1-23, 2023, will receive an exclusive Red Cross and PEANUTS T-shirt featuring Snoopy as the coolest beagle in town, Joe Cool, while supplies last!