Blood banks across the nation are increasing their efforts to recruit Hispanic blood donors, the AP/Denver Post reports. Hispanics comprise 15% of the U.S. population, but 3% to 4% are blood donors, according to the Post.
Hispanics are more likely than others to have type O blood, which is considered "universal" because it can be used by people with other blood types in the case of an emergency. Roughly 45% of the general population has type O blood. Thirty-seven percent of whites and 47% of blacks have type O blood.
Experts believe that even more Hispanics have type O blood. Seventy-one percent of blood donors in Mexico are type O, while 54% of donors in Venezuela and 62% in Guatemala are type O donors, according to a survey of major blood banks in Latin America by Alexander Indrikovs, blood bank director at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Celso Bianco of American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers attributed the low donor rates among U.S. Hispanics to recent immigrants' unfamiliarity with the blood donation system in the U.S. Bianco said a prestocked blood supply is rare in Latin America, where most countries' systems rely in large part on "replacement" donations from friends and relatives for those in need of a transfusion.
In addition, language barriers and the requirement to show a valid ID to donate in the U.S. also prevent many Hispanics from being donors. Indrikovs said, "We have legally millions of people from Latin America living in the U.S. We need to get them on board to be regular blood donors," adding, "It's a great opportunity we have".
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation