World Blood Donor Day

World Blood Donor Day - Friday, June 14, 2024

Health Activities Giving Back Global Focus

Every year on June 14, organizations all around the globe celebrate World Blood Donor Day. An event that raises awareness to the importance that donating blood means to the health industry, as the range of uses is way more diverse than anyone thinks. From plasma treatments to research and emergency uses, donating blood has been an important cornerstone that has aided the world on several occasions.

The history of blood donation goes back further than you might expect, reaching as far back as the 17th century. The medical specialists of the time knew that blood was a vital element in the body, and losing too much of it was bound to have tragic consequences on the patient. So it was that experimentation began, and a whole new breed of heroes was born that contribute their blood so that others may live. Blood Donors save lives every day by giving of themselves, so those accident victims and those in need of transfusions for surgeries can live.

History of World Blood Donor Day

The first transfusions were done using poorly understood science and resulted in some rather tragic results for the patients. Richard Lower was the first one to examine animals and blood circulation and finding ways to stop blood clotting. While he was, of course, only working with animals, he managed to drain the blood off of a medium-sized dog and then transfuse the blood of a large mastiff into the smaller animal. Both dogs recovered with no apparent ill effects.

So it was that he gained considerable notoriety for his efforts, and was asked to speak on and teach this technique to the Royal Society. There were some odd beliefs about blood back then, and the first human transfusion involved putting the blood of a sheep into a patient who was suffering from a mild form of insanity. It was thought that perhaps the blood of so gentle a creature as a lamb might help to calm his madness. The act of transferring animal blood into patients was strongly questioned by the tightly superstitious and morally rigid authorities of the time, and the practice was outlawed, vanishing for 150 years.

It was an obstetrician that brought blood transfusions back into modern medical technology, starting in 1818. After he saved the life of a woman who had hemorrhaged terribly after giving birth, he started publishing works on how it was done and the study thereof. Throughout his life, he performed ten transfusions, 5 of which saved the lives of the recipients.

World Blood Donor Day is a World Health Organization campaign. The first event to raise awareness of the importance of blood transfusions took place in 2012. Since then, the WHO has spearheaded campaigns every year. 

Blood, the WHO says, is an essential resource, not only for urgent interventions but also for planned treatments. Surgeons regularly make use of third-party blood to ensure the continued health and survival of their patients, both during and after surgery. Blood is necessary for maintaining vital functions and providing assistance in emergencies of all kinds. Medics use it to help people recover after car accidents, armed conflicts, natural disasters, and perinatal care. 

Medical systems need a steady supply of healthy people, willing to give their blood for use in hospital transfusions. Blood, therefore, is a precious commodity. Without volunteers, people donating their blood regularly, health services would grind to a halt.

The WHO, however, recognizes that not all countries have systems in place to gather sufficient quantities. In some areas, people want to give blood, but it is not practical for them to travel to the clinic. In other locales, citizens don’t understand the value of their donations and so never make an effort to donate. World Blood Donor Day, therefore, is an annual event that informs people of the necessity of blood collection efforts and how they can get involved. 

World Blood Donor Day, however, doesn’t just focus on getting more volunteers to come forward. It also works to improve methods of collection and delivery. Harvesting blood from a donor and transferring it to a patient is a complex process. Medics must pay attention to hygiene and blood type – things that are difficult in places where health systems are still developing. The Day, therefore, is just as much about spreading state-of-the-art protocols as it is encouraging people to donate. 

World Blood Donor Day, therefore, celebrates the hard work and daring of these early medical professionals and recognizes the efforts they put into developing a technology that saves so many lives today.

How to celebrate World Blood Donor Day

The best way to celebrate World Blood Donor Day is to go out and give blood! There’s a powerful need for blood of all types, and there’s rarely enough of it to go around. Just a single contribution now and then will help save lives, so get on out there and give!

Finding a clinic in your local area is surprisingly easy. Usually, teams of medics will set up donor rooms where you can go to give blood with other volunteers. Before you donate, you’ll need to take a quiz to see if you qualify. After that, a nurse will test your blood to ensure that it is safe to withdraw a large quantity. Then, they will place a needle in your arm and remove around a pint. 

If you can’t give blood for whatever reason, that doesn’t prevent you from taking part in World Blood Donor Day. There are still plenty of things that you can do. You could, for instance, mark the occasion by updating your social media profile pictures to celebrate the event. Symbols and images can have a massive impact. 

If you live in an area that requires more blood, you could also go out canvassing on behalf of your local blood donation group. Often something as simple as posting leaflets through the doors of those in the local community can encourage people to come forward. 

World Blood Donor Day is, therefore, one of the most important public health events in the calendar. It affirms the hard work of those early blood transfusion pioneers and encourages people to get out and give!

History of World Blood Donor Day

The history of blood donation goes far back, with the first transfusions done using poorly understood science and very early research. But it wasn’t until Richard Lower was the first one to examine the science of blood donation with animals. He managed to successfully transfuse blood between two dogs with no appreciable ill effects.

And the science that surrounded the topic of blood slowly developed from that point, breaking taboos and moving from animal experimentation. From progress in transfusion technology to Karl Landsteiner discovering the ABO human blood type system to best determine donors, blood transfusions quickly became a staple in health topics and the medical field.

Following on from the success of World Health Day in the year 2000, which focussed on blood donation and the safety of transfusions, ministers of health from all across the world made a unanimous declaration in May 2005, during the 58th World Health Assembly, to designate World Blood Donor Day as an annual event held on every June 14, choosing Landsteiner’s birthday to commemorate it.
World Blood Donor Day aims to raise awareness regarding the need for regular blood donations, important to keep the health industry with a stable supply, and to celebrate the hard work of medical professionals that work in the research and development for new technology and uses for donated blood, as well as medical teams who use blood on a regular basis. This day is also used to thank donors for their service and determination to save lives and make the world a better place.

World Blood Donor Day timeline

December 6, 2013

Record Breaking

The largest blood donation drive was held, where 61,902 participants donated blood all across India

June 11, 2009

Important Steps

The Melbourne Declaration is established, setting up a goal for all countries to obtain all blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors by 2020.

May 2005


World Blood Donor Day is created and implemented at the 58th World Health Assembly.

April 7, 2000

Chosen Theme

The theme of World Health Day is “Safe Blood Starts With Me”

World Blood Donor Day FAQs

What is the Rh factor?

Rh stands for Rhesus factor, and it’s a protein that lives on the surface of the red blood cells. People who have it are positive, while people who don’t are negative. When it comes to blood transfusion, Rh positive people can receive either kind, but Rh negative people can only receive Rh negative blood.

What’s the shelf life of donated blood?

Blood components have different measures of times they can be stored. Red blood cells can last up to 42 days; plasma can last for a year when frozen, and platelets can be stored for only five days; so it is important to keep a regular donation rate.

Where can I donate blood?

There are multiple options and places where to donate blood. Search on the internet for your closest Red Cross, hospital or health organization and schedule a date. It’s quick and easy, we encourage you to donate if you’re able!

5 Facts About Blood

  1. There are eight blood types

    They are A, B, AB and O, and they come in either positive or negative Rh Factor

  2. Able to give to all

    People with Type O negative blood are universal donors with blood that can be used by anyone.

  3. A common occurrence

    About 4.5 million Americans receive blood transfusions each year.

  4. Bountiful Supply

    An average adult has about 10 – 12 pints of blood in his or her body.

  5. Blood is made of four elements

    It’s divided into red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, all floating in plasma.

How to Observe World Blood Donor Day

  1. Give blood!

    If you’re eligible to donate blood, you only need to dedicate about an hour of your day to this live-saving process. Once you arrive for your donation and check in, you’ll be given a mini-physical to make sure that you’re healthy enough to donate blood. The actual blood donation process only takes a little over ten minutes—typically, they take about one pint of blood per person. Once you’ve finished, they’ll give you some refreshments (read: free snacks!) to make sure you're ready to get back to your normal life.

  2. Spread the word

    If you either can’t donate blood or can’t find the time, spreading the word about the importance of World Blood Donor Day can be hugely impactful. Tell your friends, family, colleagues, and social media followers how important blood donations are. Many people are unaware of how easy the process is, so word-of-mouth is incredibly helpful in inspiring future blood donors.

  3. Find an event near you

    Look online to see if there are any special events in your area, such as rallies or pop-up donation sites, to celebrate World Blood Donor Day. Many blood centers, hospitals, and volunteers set up special, fun events on June 14th to celebrate the holiday and maximize blood donations. Again: there’s a very good chance of free snacks.

Why World Blood Donor Day is Important

  1. It saves lives

    Before blood transfusions became a regular medical practice, lives were regularly lost as a result of an inadequate blood supply. Blood donations end up supporting a wide variety of medical needs, from pre-planned, minor procedures to emergency surgeries. Blood transfusions are an important part of the planned treatment of cancer patients or expecting mothers, as well as vital in case of disasters or car crashes.

  2. There’s always a need for more blood donations

    Donating blood is a quick, easy, and incredibly safe process, but only a small subsection of the population are regular blood donors. Out of the people who are considered “eligible” to donate blood, only about 10 percent choose to do so. Because blood donation is an entirely voluntary process, World Blood Donor Day is an important reminder of how there can never be such a thing as “too many blood donations.” In the United States alone, someone needs blood every two seconds!

  3. It's a global issue

    Having an adequate blood supply is, obviously, necessary in every country on earth. Right now, many developed countries are able to rely on voluntary, unpaid blood donations to meet 100% of their blood supply needs. But finding those volunteers and making sure the blood is safe is still a big issue in developing countries, and they often have to rely on either family or paid donations. The WHO is working hard to ensure that, in the near future, blood donations all over the world will be entirely unpaid and voluntary.

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