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WHO’s ‘Safe Blood Starts With Me’ Campaign

Media release
13 April 2000

WHO’s ‘Safe Blood Starts With Me’ Campaign
Supported by NZ Blood Service and Ministry of Health

The Ministry of Health and New Zealand Blood Service recently supported World Health Day to bring home the importance of maintaining New Zealand’s safe blood supply and to reinforce the global message, “Safe Blood Starts With Me.” The World Health Organisation and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are using this message in a public awareness campaign.

The global numbers are startling. According to the WHO and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies:

 500,000 women die in childbirth annually, many because they lack access to safe blood
 100 million units of blood are collected annually, but millions more are needed
 20-30% of the world’s health systems can’t provide enough safe blood

“When you look around the world, it strikes you how lucky we are in New Zealand. Not only are we self sufficient, but we also have one of the safest blood supplies in the developed world, and new initiatives are making it even safer,” said Dr Robin Pratt, NZBS’ Chief Executive.

This year, several major safety initiatives have been launched, and more will follow:

 In February, a National Donor Questionnaire was launched and new Donor Selection Guidelines were published to ensure uniformity across the country.
 A new technology - Nucleic acid Amplification Technology (NAT) testing - was introduced last year for plasma-derived blood products and will soon be used to further protect red cells and platelets from Hepatitis C and HIV.
 Leucodepletion, a process which removes white cells from blood, is to be introduced by the end of the year, adding another level of quality and safety.

According to Minister of Health Annette King: “Notwithstanding advances in testing, much of the credit for our having a safe blood supply in New Zealand goes to the many thousands of unpaid donors, especially regular donors, who have given the gift of life over the years. The WHO and Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies say the safest donor is one who donates at least twice a year without receiving money or goods in exchange. I am proud to say that, after lapsing for a while, I am now back in this ‘safest’ group that donates at least twice a year. And each donation could save up to three lives!”
Safe Blood … P2

Dr Pratt said the slogan “Safe Blood Starts With Me” is a reminder to Kiwis that if they want to give the gift of life, they have to keep themselves healthy and “know the rules.” Hundreds of potential donors are prevented from donating every year because they:

 have anaemia (a common problem, especially with lower weight young women)
 got a tattoo (and thus cannot donate for 12 months)
 had body piercing (and cannot donate for 12 months)

“The increasing rate of tattoos and body piercing is a concern, especially when you consider that 24% of our blood donations come from the 16-24 age group,” said Dr Pratt.

The Haemophilia Foundation of New Zealand and the KIDS Foundation (Kids with Immuno Deficiencies) support the “Safe Blood Starts With Me” public awareness campaign because “access to safe blood and blood products truly is a matter of life or death for our members.”

Excellent results

Dr Pratt said Kiwis have responded brilliantly to the new donor recruitment campaign launched in February. In February there were approximately 3,800 new donors, and 4,800 new donors in March. Approximately one-third of these donated as a direct result of the donor recruitment campaign. In general, NZBS needs 2,943 donations per week. NZBS is on track to replacing the 12,000 donors (10% of the 120,000 active donors) expected to be lost as a result of the “safety first” donor policy adopted on 17 February.

The policy, in line with that of the US FDA and Health Canada, bans donors who spent more than six months (in total) in the UK from 1980-1996. It is a precautionary step to safeguard blood supplies against the theoretical risk that variant CJD, a new form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, might be transmitted through blood transfusions. No cases of transmission of CJD or vCJD by transfusion have ever been recorded, and no cases of vCJD have been seen outside of Europe.

“The blood supply in New Zealand has never been safer; it’s amongst the safest in the world. New advances will continue to help us further enhance safety and quality, but we all need to take note of the WHO and Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies’ message,
‘Safe Blood Starts With Me.’ And New Zealanders need to continue to donate – every drop counts,” said Dr Pratt.


Safe Blood … P3

Released by Bill Moore, PRaxis Public Relations Ltd, 09 373-5068; 025-769-654

For further information, please contact:

 Dr Robin Pratt
Chief Executive, NZBS
09 638-7800

 Annette King
Minister of Health
c/o Press Secretary John Harvey

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