The Namal

NHSRC boosts voluntary blood donations in Pakistan with Facebook feature

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 The coronavirus has put the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at risk across the world, not only due to the pandemic itself, but also for other health-related issues especially those that depend on a sustainable blood supply. People whose lives depend on regular transfusions are worried as voluntary blood donations began to deteriorate in Pakistan when coronavirus hit the country. Responding to this situation, The Pakistan Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) Safe Blood Transfusion Programme (SBTP) urged people to donate blood and contribute to a more sustainable blood supply for the country. 

“The global pandemic has been a reminder that it is more important than ever to accelerate voluntary blood donations across Pakistan. One of the ways to do it is to take advantage of Facebook’s Blood Donation feature where people can easily sign up to be a blood donor and encourage others to do the same. By taking one small step, together, we will be able to build a stable and safe supply of blood to address these needs and deliver life-changing impact to countless individuals and families across Pakistan,” said Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Health.

Since Facebook launched it’s Blood Donations feature two years ago, over five million people in Pakistan have signed up as voluntary blood donors, to date. In April alone, the social media platform has had over 100,000 active registered blood donors. These donors have either set a reminder or called a blood bank indicating intent to donate. 

“We know that when donors have information and opportunities to give, they step up to help. Coronavirus has led to blood shortages around the world, including in Pakistan, due to shelter in place orders limiting the ability for people to donate. Blood Donations on Facebook shows people opportunities to donate, including requests from blood donors and blood banks. We believe access to safe blood is a matter of life and together we can create a sustainable blood supply for the country,” said Sarim Aziz, Head of Public Policy, Pakistan. 

The Safe Blood Transfusion Programme (SBTP) partnership with Facebook

The Safe Blood Transfusion Programme launched a pilot of Facebook’s Blood Donations feature in five hospital blood banks in major cities in Pakistan. Over the course of six months, each pilot blood bank implemented a donor questionnaire and tracked key metrics such as registrations, phone calls, visits and donations. The results not only demonstrated the efficacy of the tool in increasing voluntary donations, but also provided SBTP with insights on how to maximize donor outreach.

“Facebook has provided Pakistan with an effective blood donation feature that is helping bring a paradigm shift from reliance on family replacement donations to 100% regular voluntary donations,” said Dr. Hasan Abbas Zaheer, Former National Coordinator, Safe Blood Transfusion Programme Government of Pakistan

Impact

The SBTP was able to increase voluntary blood donations and contribute to a more sustainable blood supply by using Facebook to raise awareness and tell people where and when they can donate blood. Facebook has therefore proved a very efficient and effective tool with tremendous potential to target larger audiences.

To date, over five million people in Pakistan have registered to donate blood. Results from a pilot program with 5 regional blood banks showed that 3 out of 5 of those blood banks received over 50% of their voluntary donations directly from Facebook.

  • 3 out of 5 blood banks received over 50% of their voluntary blood donations directly from Facebook.

One of these blood banks is Bahawalpur Regional Blood Centre (RBC) in Punjab Province. Facebook significantly boosted the organization’s organic reach so they could access and engage an audience far larger than before. Facilitating blood donations through Facebook also proved very effective at recruiting voluntary blood donors, and the method was much faster and more cost-efficient than other ways of traditional advertising. By utilizing the Facebook Blood Donations feature, voluntary blood donations doubled and they now receive 58%[SM2]  of their monthly blood supply directly from Facebook donors.

  • Bahawalpur RBC receives 58% of their monthly blood supply directly from Facebook donors.

Based on the success of the pilot, centers nationwide are now using Facebook Blood Donations. The SBTP-Facebook partnership has boosted national efforts to promote voluntary blood donations, raised awareness about blood safety, and increased overall community engagement. As a result, the SBTP modified their national strategy for donor mobilization to include social media as an effective way to help fulfill the country’s need for blood donations. The SBTP now views social media as playing a key role in shifting the paradigm from reliance on family replacement donations to 100% regular voluntary donations.

“When we partnered with Facebook, we were stunned to see the kind of social good that we can do through this platform. Our team members have now started seeing social media as a potential tool that can be used to support health systems and community,” said ZahidQazi, Manager of Blood Mobilization, Bahawalpur Regional Blood Centre

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