NewsLocal NewsGrand Rapids


Push for blood donations highlights needs among African American community

Posted at 9:17 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 22:39:23-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Spectrum Health is urging people to donate blood, especially those who are African American.

Blood has continuously been in a shortage during the pandemic, which means getting blood could become more difficult for those who are harder to match.

While African Americans make up roughly 14% of the population, they are responsible for only about 5% of total blood donations. Longstanding governmental distrust has kept some from donating.

RELATED: Why distrust for COVID-19 vaccines may be higher in African American communities

"The long disparities and horrific things that have happened to communities of color are not lost on me as an African American person and as a physician. I'm well known to things like the Tuskegee experiment and the HeLa cells and all those things. So there's been long going mistrust, but I will say that giving blood is safe. We're not doing experiments on you," said Dr. Lisa Lowery, Section Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Helen Devos Children's Hospital.

African Americans are also more disproportionately affected by sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder that contorts red blood cells into sickle shapes. The disorder, along with many others, requires multiple blood transfusions during treatment.

"So that's another reason the more people we have, the larger pool, the larger depth, the larger bench; if you would consider it, the more likely we are to have those, that wide array of blood types and are able to match those particular blood ties," said Dr. Lowery.

Doctors not only have to match blood with the correct type but ensure other qualities such as antibodies match so there is less risk of rejection.

If you would like to donate, there are a number of upcoming blood drive events:

Follow FOX 17: Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - YouTube