Dubbed the ''greatest generation,'' Americans who fought and lived through World War II also were pretty great about donating blood. But as their numbers dwindle and as they require more blood for their own surgeries, the USA is facing a drain on its blood supply.
So the non-profit Ad Council, along with America's top three blood-collection agencies, has launched an ad campaign targeting adults ages 17 to 24.
The effort, beamed to television, radio and college campuses, will push an urgent message to America's young: Donate blood. The campaign will use fast-paced imagery and modern storylines.
''Our goal is to see young adults become interested in this issue and create a whole new generation of lifelong blood donors,'' says Heidi Arthur, senior vice president of campaign management for the Ad Council.
Already strained by increasing donation restrictions, blood inventory levels tend to shrink further heading into the winter months.
''We are trying to make the blood supply as safe as possible, so we have had more restrictions that make it harder for people to donate,'' says Jennifer Garfinkel, spokeswoman for the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), one of three groups that are developing the campaign. The American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers also are taking part.
Restrictions have cut donations from people who might have been exposed to outbreaks of SARS, mad cow disease and West Nile virus. These restrictions are in addition to the standing age, weight and health constraints: Donors must be at least 17 years old, 110 pounds and healthy.
Supply levels also are dropping because the group most dedicated to donating blood, the World War II generation, cannot give as much.
''We are seeing the older generation that is committed but are donating less, because they are getting old and are requiring more blood themselves,'' Garfinkel says.
Conversely, young adults either have not been educated about or do not feel the need to donate blood. Garfinkel says 24% of those ages 17 to 24 are donors, but they tend to give just once. Those 55 and over make up 17% of donors and generally give four to six times a year.
The campaign, whose slogan is ''Saving the world isn't easy, but saving a life is,'' aims to combat the belief that one person cannot solve a problem as global as a blood-supply shortage. In fact, one pint of blood can save up to three lives.
''You shouldn't feel futile in your efforts to make a difference,'' says Betsy Simons, group account director for Euro RSCG Worldwide, the company that designed the ads.
Visit www.bloodsaves.com to find out whether you are eligible to donate blood and where to do so.
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