In March 2017, over 90 global experts in blood safety and development from blood centers, industry, government, and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) gathered in Arlington, Virginia for the Third International Blood Safety Forum, co-sponsored by America’s Blood Centers and Global Healing. The meeting explored ways to increase access to affordable, safe blood for low- and lower-middle income countries (LMIC) in an era when funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund has been redirected from preventing the spread of HIV to diagnosing and treating the estimated 25 million people living with HIV in LMIC. Accessible safe blood is an unfortunate casualty of this shift.
Proposals to resolve healthcare inequities between LMIC and high-income countries (HIC) include helping LMIC to define sustainable, fit-for-purpose national policies and practices for blood accessibility and utilization to suit their context. Blood systems development should build quality programs that target hospitals, clinics and rural healthcare providers to ensure proper and safe use of blood. Our blood safety lexicon must be revised to include availability, ACCESSIBILITY and affordability of blood and blood components as the goal of all blood safety initiatives in LMICs. Systems for better cost recovery through effective management must be developed. Above all, investment is essential to keep blood systems operating while they evolve to more sustainable states. Public-private partnerships and non-government investment must now supplement (probably replace) the traditional model of large grants from bilateral and multilateral donors and HIC governments.
As individual blood bankers, can we help? Sharing knowledge with counterparts in developing countries makes you part of the solution, and shows new funding organizations that if they are willing to invest, the expertise is available to support their efforts. The use of distance learning offers a way to make transfer of knowledge cost efficient for both funders and experts. Today, online lectures can reach almost anywhere in the world in real time.
Safe Blood for Africa, ABC members and Global Healing have joined forces to bring current knowledge to blood services in selected countries of sub-Saharan Africa through a combination of onsite instruction and webinars. The use of webinars in this setting opens up new possibilities for highly qualified instructors to reach and interact directly with emerging blood safety professionals around the world. This model provides a missing key piece in the complex web of sponsors, standards organizations, professional societies, industry foundations and NGOs that must be connected in order to make progress. Please reach out to me to volunteer as faculty in your area of interest and expertise. Your contributions of expertise (and funding) are welcome! To get involved, please email me.
John Donnelly, PhD; President, Global Healing