19-25 April 2013 #652

Transfusion through social networks

Contacting the right people at the right time

Internationally, social media has proven to be a fast, direct, and reliable way to reach the right people at the right time when requesting for and donating blood. And it is catching on in Nepal as well.

A woman with maternity complications in Kathmandu needs a rare type of blood and her relatives put out a notice on Facebook. Within minutes, she has five potential donors. An accident victim is being rushed to Kathmandu from Mugling and needs blood urgently. Friends tweet his blood type and a dozen relatives and acquaintances show up at the hospital ready to donate. With nearly two million Facebook users in Nepal and Twitter picking up fast among the urban middle class with smartphones, social networking is much more accessible than it used to be.

But alerting potential donors about blood transfusion emergencies is not the only role of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Spreading information of facts related to blood, location, successful stories, those engaged in donation, and encouraging others to donate are trends of information that these kind of pages on social media tend to follow worldwide.

On Facebook and Twitter the information displayed is similar across the world: they show photos of donors, key facts of donation, videos, staff working at transfusion centres, successful cases, and requests for blood.

The difference is the number of likes or followers. For example, the official page of the Blood and Transplant Service for England and North Wales has nearly 250,000 likes. New Zealand Blood Service’s Facebook page has almost 20,000 likes, Blood Bank in Kenya has 919 likes, blood donors’ page in Maldives has 284 followers, and an Argentinean local NGO has more than 19,000.

In Nepal, @ibloodNepal has nearly 1,000 followers and more than 3,200 Facebook fans. It centralises requests on blood types and helps spread the message to a larger Nepali audience through the web. There are 20 other similar groups in Nepal.

On the other hand, hashtags on Twitter with words like #BloodDonation, #BloodDonor give those who need blood or who want to donate blood a tremendous and immediate reach, especially when they are tweeted and retweeted.

Virtual help also reaches YouTube with videos related to campaigns on donation and apps for smart phones to search for donor centres or mobile blood drive.

Juanita Malagon

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