The American Red Cross
is making some efforts in certain parts of the United States to generate awareness among Hispanics of the importance of donating blood. I recently read an AP article in the Hartford Courant
that pointed out that 56.5 percent of Hispanics have type O blood, the "universal" blood type that can be used by people with other blood types if needed. However, only 3 percent of the state's donors are Hispanic.
The article stunningly leaves out a critical piece of information: why? While legislators should be commended for bringing light to this issue, "light" is not enough. After all, Hispanics who hear the message that it's important to donate will almost universally agree, don't you think? However, how do you get them to take the next step (i.e. act upon a message) and actually donate? I enter that a press conference and the short-term media coverage that it generated is not enough.
In the general market, the Red Cross has learned through much research and trial and tribulation that most people don't donate blood because they've never been asked. So, you might have heard the advertising spots "consider yourself asked," which is a good message, obviously, given the main reason people don't donate.
However, is "not being asked" the same reason Hispanics don't donate? The Morning News (Northwest Arkansas) has an article
that is similar to the one in the Hartford Courant, but does get to some of the reasons the Hispanics interviewed in the article claim are why they don't donate. Most are just based in ignorance:
-- They think they are going to gain weight
-- They think the needle is very painful
-- Hispanic students fear becoming infected with AIDS
-- They will donate for friends and relatives, but not for general use.
While I admit I don't know exactly everything that the Red Cross is doing to deal with the issue of Hispanics not donating, it seems from the news coverage that they are focused on getting Spanish-speaking people to conduct blood drives in predominantly Hispanic areas (probably using translated materials).
This is a good step, but the Red Cross needs to also understand that it's not solely about the language barrier. Cultural reasons are also likely at the root of the issue. However, to truly get to the root cause, they need to take the same approach to understanding the challenges and developing messages for the Hispanic market as they have done for the general market. Until they do, I suspect the current efforts won't yield long-term results.