Promoting Blood Donation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Role of Culture and Interventions



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Inadequate blood donation is a major public health problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study examines the influence of culture and communication on blood donation in Sub-Saharan Africa, with particular focus on Ghana.

The literature was systematically reviewed for aspects of culture and communication that influence blood donation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Also, key informant interviews and focus group discussions with physicians, media professionals, and voluntary blood donors in Ghana were used, both to identify barriers to blood donation and to obtain some recommendations for designing interventions to boost blood donation.

Literature searching yielded 3020 publications, including conference abstracts. Of them, 41 publications?representing 36 studies?met inclusion criteria and were critically appraised. Aspects of culture that were identified as influencing blood donation in Sub-Saharan Africa included blood donation-related misconceptions, religious beliefs, and influence of relatives. Communication channels that were identified for increasing blood donation included mass media, mobile phones, and face-to-face contacts.

In Ghana, beliefs and attitudes of the public that were identified as barriers to blood donations included misconceptions about blood donation, such as the erroneous belief that hospital authorities were using donated blood for rituals. Some respondents perceived that health professionals have not educated the public and journalists enough about blood donation. Another perceived barrier to blood donation was negative media reporting, such as indicating the percentage of blood donors found to be HIV-positive. The lack of mutual trust between health professionals and journalists also served as a barrier to using the mass media to promote blood donation.

To promote blood donation, respondents in Ghana suggested several strategies, including broadcasting radio or television dramas about blood donation in English and local languages to engage both literate and illiterate populations; providing media recognition of donors who achieve blood donation-related milestones; having blood donors serve as ambassadors of blood donor drives; using social media to engage prospective younger blood donors; and using mobile telephone caller tunes or ringback tones to publicize blood donation.

Thus, many culture- and communication-related factors influence blood donation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Those designing interventions to increase blood donation in this region should consider these factors, including misconceptions, religious beliefs, family influences, and language.