Blood banking systems improving in China, more progress needed

p> One problem is that China's current blood collection system is fragmented, reflecting the country's size as well as marked differences between its rural and urban areas. For example, more than 400 blood centers nationwide collect whole blood, and each local government is responsible for providing oversight, even though national agencies create policies and pass blood-bank-related laws, the researchers point out.

A major obstacle, also, is converting China's system to volunteer-donors-only, a proven step in improving blood safety, says Shan. The scarcity of volunteer donors and a chronically low blood supply have created a market for paid blood donations, a practice that attracts illegal activities and infected donations, and tends not to overcome traditional beliefs.

"Young, educated people are likely to volunteer to donate blood, but older Chinese are more likely to believe that blood is a gift from their ancestors and that losing even a little bit can be harmful," she says.

The researchers note that important advances have been made in increasing the number of volunteer donors since 1998, when a law went into effect banning clinical use of paid-for whole blood. But even in 2000, only 67 percent of clinically used blood was actually from volunteers, according to the Chinese Society of Blood Transfusion. (In 1996, just 11 percent was collected from volunteers.)

Education and training is another hurdle, the researchers say. With a grant from the Fogarty International Center, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Shan and others at Hopkins, along with physicians in China, are in their third year of providing U.S.-based training and China-based workshops to people involved in blood collection, processing and transfusion.

A native of China, Shan's interest in the country's blood banking system stems in part from her work with Jay Brooks Jackson, M.D., Ph.D., director of pathology at Johns Hopkins. As they studi

Contact: Joanna Downer
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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