The blood management system needs a fresh infusion

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has brought attention to the global disparities in blood collection.

Key findings of the report:

  • Despite having 14% of the global population, countries in the WHO African region could only collect 5% of the global donations.
  • Low-income and lower-middle-income nations received 2% and 24% of the worldwide contributions, respectively, even though their populations account for only 8% and 40% of the global population.
  • According to WHO’s standards for self-sufficiency, India collected around 1.27 crore blood units and faced a shortage of over six lakh units in 2019-20.
    • While India has improved its blood management ecosystem, the country still faces a perennial shortage of blood units, impacting critical healthcare services.
  • Such shortages can have serious implications on the functioning of the healthcare system and, if addressed promptly, can significantly contribute to saving lives.

Significance of blood availability:

  • Blood and its various products play a crucial role in a number of medical scenarios, including scheduled surgeries and emergency procedures, as well as in treating conditions such as cancer, thalassemia, and postpartum haemorrhage (PPH).
  • For example, according to a Savitribai Phule Pune University study, an automobile accident victim needs up to 50 units of blood.
    • In 2019-20, the shortage was significant enough to put approximately 12,000 accident victims’ lives at risk.
    • Moreover, this deficit could impact 1,00,000 heart surgeries and approximately 30,000 bone marrow transplants.

Challenges and concerns:

  • According to the data tabled in Parliament, from 2014-15 to 2016-17, a surplus of 30 lakh blood units and related products were discarded.
    • The primary reasons were expiration from not being used, degradation during storage and the presence of infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis.
  • Another aspect of the blood management system that perpetuates the inequities associated with it is the propagation of myths and misinformation around voluntary blood donation.
    • Many people still refrain from donating blood voluntarily because of the fear of infections damaging their immunity or simply because they assume it to be time-consuming.

Hub and Spoke model of blood management system:

  • It is an innovative method with high-volume blood banks as a hub for smaller blood centres.
    • This model can be particularly relevant for resource-constrained settings in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) as it can address critical gaps in blood availability and distribution, thereby enhancing the accessibility and availability of blood and its products.
  • As the shelf life of blood and its products is short, a hub and spoke model would help optimise their utilisation by the smaller blood centres.
    • This approach streamlines distribution, ensuring these vital resources reach their maximum potential while reducing losses from expiration.
  • Moreover, implementing a hub and spoke model can improve accessibility to safe blood and its products in community health centres and smaller sub-district hospitals, especially in geographically challenging topographies.

Way forward:

  • The private sector can collaborate with the government to form robust public-private partnerships (PPP), to launch grassroots campaigns using social media and innovative tools like multi-lingual comics.
    • These creative strategies can engage diverse audiences and promote informed, voluntary blood donation, fostering a culture of informed donation.
    • Simultaneously, the active participation of the citizenry should also be a pivotal aspect of this concerted effort.
  • The health paradigm must be prepared accordingly as the COVID-19 pandemic is left behind and align the global developmental roadmap for an equitable and sustainable future.
    • Political leaders and policymakers must continue to take steps to strengthen the blood management ecosystem.
  • Greater health financing through international collaborations, deepening the adoption of digital health solutions, and increasing access to medical countermeasures are key to reducing the global disparity in health and strengthening the global health architecture.
    • However, prioritising access to blood and its products remains fundamental to building a resilient global health architecture amidst these crucial strategies.

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