Compensating blood donors — by giving them gift cards, T-shirts, and time off from work — would motivate more people to donate and could significantly increase the blood supply, according to a new analysis.
A team of economists from Johns Hopkins, the University of Toronto and University of Sydney report a large body of research that supports the idea and argue that the World Health Organization and national blood collection agencies should reconsider their opposition to economic incentives for much-needed blood donations.
The report, published in the journal Science, said opposition to such incentives has been based in part on faulty studies suggesting compensation would attract blood donations with greater risks such as viruses and infectious diseases. But now field-based evidence from large studies clearly refute the previous findings, the economists argue. Economic rewards do have a positive effect on donations, without negative consequences on the safety of the blood.
One study they cited involved information from nearly 100,000 donors at 72 American Red Cross blood drives in northern Ohio from September 2009 through August 2010. Gift cards were offered at half of the blood-drive sites; no incentives were provided at the other sites.
The result showed an advertised offer of a $5 gift card increased donations by 26 percent; a $10 gift card produced a 52 percent rise, without compromising blood donation quality.
"There are several differences between the earlier studies and the new field evidence," said Mario Macis, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School assistant professor. He noted that in the field studies "donors do not feel scrutinized by the researcher and thus might be less concerned about their image and more excited about the rewards."
He added that advances in screening technology since the WHO guidelines were established have reduced the risk of tainted or of unusable blood being used later in transfusions.
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