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Digital platforms could help boost blood donations, especially among young people

 

A study analyzes how the use of collaborative digital platforms could improve the blood donations. (Foto: Nguyen Hiep/Unsplash)

02/08/2021
Jesús Méndez
Trust among donors and modern lifestyles herald the use of blood donating platforms

A shortage of blood donors is a growing problem in many places throughout the world. While an ageing population and longer life expectancy increases demand, the number of volunteers seems to be decreasing, especially among young people.

Traditional campaigns based on promotional activities, posters and leaflets are having limited success. Now, researchers at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), in collaboration with the Universidad Austral de Chile, have studied for the first time how the use of collaborative digital platforms could improve the situation. In a preliminary study, published in the open access journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the key aspects that influence motivation within this type of platform have been identified, and what these must take into account to optimize their results.

"Many people are not aware of the current problem concerning blood donations," according to Joan Torrent-Sellens, member of the UOC's Faculty of Economics and Business, director of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on ICT (i2TIC) and the article's lead author. "The use of new channels may be a useful tool for reaching and motivating young people and encouraging them to increase their donations."

 

Digital platforms for social use

Many research studies have been performed to analyse the use of collaborative platforms related to accommodation and transport, but "these have barely been studied in relation to social purposes, such as blood donation," said Torrent, also eHealth Center collaborator. This case could be important, because "despite the obvious differences, the problem is similar to that of pensions. We need young people in order for the system to work." Although not very extensive, there are already countries in which different initiatives of this type have been launched, as is the case of the Blooders.org platform.

For the new study, specific questionnaires have been developed to discern the factors that influence both motivation and the behaviour patterns that encourage people to donate blood in a collaborative platform environment. In total, 302 volunteers from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and the Universidad Austral de Chile filled in the questionnaire.

Of the 16 motivation factors analysed, only two proved to be significant: trust in the process and in other participants, and the adaptation of the process to suit a modern lifestyle. "It seems important to users that a safe environment is developed, whilst at the same time feeling they are in an environment that is up with the times and shares the values associated with our modern lifestyle, such as the importance of helping others," said Torrent.

Both factors lead to a pattern of behaviour that generates positive attitudes, and there is a feeling of control and self-sufficiency about the process. All of this results in a greater intention to collaborate. Also, this modern lifestyle positively impacts what is called "the subjective standard", what the people in the environment think about using the platform.

Generally, the factors involved are related to altruism, but also to individual interests, as happens with the feeling of pride and belonging to a group that is highly appreciated by society. Also, emotional releases may serve to overcome obstacles to donating, such as anxiety and fear.

The conclusions of the study may therefore help to improve future strategies. "Campaign organizers must be aware that by working and focusing on these concepts, they will be more successful," said Torrent.

 

Present and future

The study has generated valuable information, but it is still in the early stages. The data was gathered in an academic and research context during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why new studies could help make the work more extensible. "We're planning a new wave of questionnaires to increase the group, making it more representative and more specific," said Torrent.

Torrent believes that "if these platforms are important in so many other aspects of cultural and social life, they can easily become so in the context of blood donations. Our study is as a useful tool for approaching social marketing campaigns and for developing platforms in order to more effectively reach the young population, amongst whom we face clear problems when it comes to blood donations."

 

This research is included within Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 3, to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being.

 

Reference article:

Torrent-Sellens, J., Salazar-Concha, C., Ficapal-Cusí, P., Saigí-Rubió, F. (2021). Using Digital Platforms to Promote Blood Donation: Motivational and Preliminary Evidence from Latin America and Spain. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(8), 4270. Doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18084270

 

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Photograph of Joan Torrent Sellens

Joan Torrent Sellens

Professor in the Economics and Business Studies Department
Director of the Master's Degree on Creation, Management and Running of Micro-enterprises

Expert in: ICT, knowledge and economic growth and development; ICT, knowledge and business and regional efficiency and competitiveness; ICT, knowledge, economic activities and social uses; ICT, knowledge and health; ICT, knowledge, people and work.

Knowledge area: Applied economics.

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