Young blood donors miss out on important health information

May 30, 2014

Donating blood is a great way to help others, but few young donors realize it is also an opportunity to protect their own health.

Only 11 percent of donors ages 16 to 19 go online to check their blood values offered by Carter BloodCare, the largest blood center in Texas. The values reveal whether donors have high cholesterol or blood pressure – conditions that put them at greater future risk of cardiovascular disease.

That’s why the Texas Prevention Institute at UNT Health Science Center partnered with Carter BloodCare on a pilot project to determine effective communication strategies aimed at getting young donors to check their test results. The project is funded by a $114,000 grant from Carter BloodCare Foundation.

"Young people tend to think conditions such as cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol don’t apply to them since they’re young," said Dr. Kimberly Fulda, DrPH, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine. "But we do find red flags that indicate potential health problems in this age group."

Dr. Heather Kitzman-Ulrich and Project Coordinator Michelle Lee worked with students at four high schools that hosted blood drives. Mansfield Summit High School students made colorful posters and flyers encouraging classmates to check their values. The FitWorth Healthy City Initiative, which is based at UNTHSC, provided gift cards as incentives to the schools for their participation.

Stephen Eason, Carter BloodCare Foundation Director, said donors receive a unique identifier to log on to the blood center’s website to view their cholesterol and blood pressure measurements. If they have donated blood previously, they can print their past and current results in a bar chart to view their health trends.

"This project will help us determine what communication strategies are effective in getting young blood donors to take interest in their long-term health." he said.

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