Monday, March 12, 2007

The Blood Circumstances

It looks like the medical circumstances in Japan is becoming graver not only due to the systems that I wrote about some time ago, but also because of lack of blood. The lack of blood meaning blood donation has been decreasing for some years now and it's not that the news of the shortage is new, but it's getting more serious. a news article today reported that the number of people donating blood has gone below 5 million people last year for the first time as far as the records tell.

The factors for this ongoing sharp decrease is neither few nor easy to solve as it really involves the society as a whole and the lifestyles of the people. First of all, Japan has been experiencing rapid aging of the population amid extremely low birthrates and the people who can donate blood is decreasing. The birthrate in Japan is about 1.25 and does not look like it's going to suddenly - or even gradually increase - in the near future. A lot of it is due to the rapid change in women's social status (though not completely, more equal to men than a decade ago). More and more women are willing to work rather than rear children, naturally raising the marriage age and lowering the birthrate. Then men don't participate in child rearing though much better than a decade ago, because this tacit Japanese traditional understanding of women taking care of the household while men go out to earn the money is still deeply rooted in the society and the minds of the younger people are not so liberal on that point. So, that was the first reason, lessening of the population that can donate.

Regulations of the government on blood donation can be another factor that hinders people from donating blood. It is all perfectly understandable that it is for safety reasons, that it is to prevent transmitting diseases through transfusion, so it can't be blamed so much but at the same time real numbers show that the strictness of the regulation takes away potential blood that could have been donated. For instance, people who have stayed in UK during 1980-1996 for more than one day cannot give blood, or is restricted to do so, due to safety measures against CJD (mad cow disease). Some of these regulations are fairly loose, like you can't give blood for 4 weeks after coming back from overseas, but the others such as the CJD example prohibits donation semipermanently... until the safety is confirmed.

Another major reason includes the reluctance of schools to cooperate to blood drive. The Japanese law allows blood donation from 16 years of age (18+ for 400ml donation) which includes the majority of high school students, but the schools barely provides education or not even information on blood donation to their students and very rarely accept blood drive cars to come to schools.
Also, many schools are being protective about their students worrying the health state of their students. A good portion of the high school students neither get enough sleep nor nutrition due various lifestyle reasons, and can faint lacking blood him/herself before helping anyone with his/her blood. Needless to say, the lack of blood for themselves has a lot to do with their families' dietary habit as well as their social roles be it being a good student keeping good grades, going to cram school, or hanging out with friends till late at night.

If you try to see more reasons, I bet all of them intertwine in a sophisticated way and create a vicious cycle that's hard to break.

The Red Cross which is the organization responsible for blood drive in Japan is coming up with a number of solutions to somehow increase the amount of blood donation or at least to attract attention of the younger generation. Blood donation rooms (kenketsu-room) located in towns like Shibuya and Shinjuku where thousands of young people gather have all kinds of services such as all-you-can eat/drink hamburgers, doughnuts, candy, soft drinks as well as having a good wide selection of manga, magazines, video-games, films and more.

The rooms are clean, bright and warm disenabling them to look the slightest bit like a hospital (hospitals don't leave that much good impression on many people), and the seats are much comfier than seats on a bullet train or an airplane. This attempt of changing the impressions of blood donation rooms has in fact succeeded in making the donators want to stop by or come again. If all the blood donation rooms across the country can follow these models perhaps the awareness of the young people would change.
What are the circumstances like in your country?

[This Week's Events in Tokyo]
- Tokyo Tower Special Light-up (Green for St.Patrick's Day)
- Sensoji Temple Dance of the Golden Dragon
- Japan Fashion Week : Tokyo Collection
- St.Patrick's Day Parade in Omotesando
- Cherry Blossom Forecast 2007 (complete map)

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