A Proud History of Service to the Nation
During World War II, America turned to the Red Cross to develop a supply of lifesaving blood on a massive scale. This led to the establishment of the American Red Cross Blood Donor Service, which collected 13.3 million pints of blood plasma for use by our armed forces in World War II. After the war, the Red Cross introduced the first nationwide civilian blood program. Today, each year, the Red Cross collects 6.5 million units of blood from approximately 4 million donors nationwide, and distributes over 9 million blood products for transfusion.
A Leader in Research and Testing
In addition to being the single largest supplier of blood in the U.S., the Red Cross is a leader in research and testing to protect the safety of the blood supply. The Red Cross was among the first to develop and implement testing for many infectious diseases including, HIV, hepatitis B and C viruses, West Nile virus, and more recently the agent of Chagas disease. The Red Cross also operates the first-of-its-kind nationwide hemovigilance program to examine donor and patient adverse reactions. Data from the program is used to enhance blood product quality and safety. Red Cross experts play an important role in policies and standards for the industry. By serving on key committees of AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks) and other blood-related organizations – and working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the Red Cross provides valuable data and expertise that influences the direction of the blood banking industry.
Working to Ensure an Adequate Blood Supply
The Red Cross is constantly working to increase the availability of blood and blood products. This includes educating potential donors about healthy habits that will reduce deferrals such as for low iron, improving the yield from platelet donors and using containers that extend the time that blood can be safely shipped. Increasing diverse blood donor recruitment is critical to the future of our Nation’s blood supply. The Red Cross is implementing initiatives throughout the country to increase the number of blood donors in diverse communities and raise awareness of the need to give blood. The Red Cross also works to find rare blood donors to meet the specialized needs of patients all over the country. Through its 39 Immunohematology Reference Laboratories, offering support to hospitals across the country, and its collaboration with AABB on the American Rare Donor Program, the Red Cross helps ensure that patients will get the blood they need at any time of the day or night.