Facebook is expanding its blood donation feature in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, the company announced this morning at its F8 developer conference.
“According the the World Health Organizations there are more than 70 countries in the world where people don’t have safe blood when needed and people often have to find their own blood donors,” Facebook’s Head of Health Hema Budaraju told MobiHealthNews. “We noted that in many of these countries there’s a lot of action on Facebook. There are people who comment, sometimes a thousand in a day, saying ‘We’re looking for blood donors, can you help?’”
Facebook noticed this phenomenon last year, Budaraju said, and launched tools in October of last year that let users in those three countries identify themselves as blood donors on Facebook and receive a notification when an individual, hospital, or blood bank has a need. Users can choose to supply their blood type, in which case they can be targeted by notifications when a particular type is needed. More than 8 million users have signed up using the feature.
In the next few weeks, Facebook will execute the next step in those countries: launching a special destination within Facebook, similar to Groups or Events, where donors can see all the donation opportunities near them. The feature will make it easier for blood donors to be proactive.
“If you think about places where the supply of safe blood is enough, the system works because there is a set of people who proactively look for times and ways to donate blood,” Budaraju said. “Typically, the math shows if one to one-and-a-half percent of the country’s population donates blood on a regular basis, there’s a self-sufficiency of safe blood.”
Facebook’s health group is part of the company’s Social Good program and it has been pretty quiet up until now. More is coming, however, according to the company.
“When you think about it, Facebook is already being used for health. If you look at the communities for our Groups product, there’s a lot of situations where people engage with Facebook — people with chronic conditions, people with rare conditions. There’s millions of people engaging with each other and the buckets of needs or purposes [center] around information, advocacy, and awareness,” Budaraju said. “I would actually say that Facebook has been the place in many ways for communities to engage around health conditions, and the role that health plays for Facebook is very core to the way we always think of our role as a community builder, as a communication builder, and bringing the world closer together. The work we’re doing on blood donations is pretty much along the lines of that.”
Facebook isn’t ready to say whether the blood donation features will be rolled out in additional countries. But the feature will roll out in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh in a few weeks.
“People are stepping up in many ways to demonstrate kindness and generosity,” Budaraju said. “I’m optimistic that blood donation is one place where the country and the community can mobilize and help each other and Facebook can play a role in increasing the supply of safe blood in the world.”