The Rutgers Honors College is hosting a blood drive on November 29 in partnership with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) amid a national blood shortage.
Michael Leviton, the business development liaison at RWJUH, said that while approximately 45 percent to 55 percent of the population are eligible to donate blood, only approximately 3 percent choose to donate.
"If you went on the street and asked the average person … ‘What percent of people donate blood?’ They'll probably say 20 or 30,” Leviton said. “They're not going to say 3. And when they discover 3, many, many people then come and donate. So, education is the key."
Leviton also said that a key factor driving the current blood shortage is the aftermath of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the consequent lack of blood drives over the past two years.
He said that with more people working remotely, fewer events are happening at workplaces and schools. More young donors are needed, as most donors are currently older than 40, which has been an issue since the pandemic has halted older people from donating due to health concerns regarding COVID-19.
"We're not replacing the older donors with the younger donors at a high enough rate,” he said. “That's why our college blood drives are so important."
Leviton said that to address this, there has been a greater effort to make blood drives more fun and bring them to places where there are many young people to reach, like Rutgers. He said the Rutgers drive will have music, gifts and food to help incentivize people to attend the drive and donate.
He said that each donor donating one pint of their blood helps to provide red blood cells and plasma to up to two people, and the average person has more than 10 pints of blood in their system.
People who are eligible to donate are those who are in good health, weigh over 110 pounds and are at least the age of 17, or 16 with parental consent, he said.
Additionally, he said it is essential for donors to eat a good meal, be adequately hydrated before donating and to avoid drinks that dehydrate, like coffee, ahead of time. The donation takes 7 to 10 minutes, but donors should ensure they have a free hour to give adequate time for the whole process, he said.
Sophia Hsueh, a School of Arts and Science junior, is a service events lead with HC Serves and helped plan the event. She said the blood shortage should be an alarming message to the community to do their part in donating blood.
Though, Hseuh also said certain barriers that prevent people from donating include fear, irregular blood pressure levels, low levels of iron, illness and specific medical histories.
"The Honors College strives to serve the local community through working with local partners and businesses such as RWJUH, which is located right in New Brunswick,” she said. “In this way, we know that the blood we are donating will stay in the local community."
Krista Klein, assistant dean and director for Student Outreach and First-Year Transition at the Honors College, said the event aligns with the Honors College's mission to serve students and the community at large. She added that the Honors College is also hosting an educational session to increase awareness of the importance and need for blood donations.
Leviton said the Honors College is hosting the space and working to advertise the event and make it as fun as possible. RWJUH will provide all the essential equipment and personnel to make the blood drive a success.
He said that the blood donated at this event and at other blood drives that RWJUH hosts on-campus stays in New Jersey and goes toward those living in the surrounding communities.
"There's a lot of different people that need blood transfusions, and if you're healthy, why not take that hour or that 7 minutes to save a life?" Leviton said.