Facebook is introducing a new feature in India to help promote blood donation and connect donors with people in need of blood, the company announced in a blog post yesterday.
The feature will roll out in two phases. Starting on October 1 (India's National Blood Donor Day), Facebook will begin prompting users to sign up to be blood donors, and to optionally share that they've signed up. Users can indicate their blood type if they so choose. Facebook will then roll out a tool for individuals and companies to solicit blood donations, and will alert users in the area who have signed up as donors.
"India, like many countries, has a shortage of safe blood," Hema Budaraju, Facebook's product manager for health, and Ritesh Mehta, Facebook's head of programs for South Asia, wrote in a blog post. "There aren’t enough people donating blood to meet the demand of people who need it. In some cases, this shortage leads to patients and their family being responsible for finding donors to replace blood in the blood banks or hospitals. This can cause high-stress situations as people try to find blood donors on their own — including by reaching out to their network on Facebook."
"We think we can help — by finding ways to more efficiently bring blood donors and people in need together," Budaraju and Mehta continued. "In India, this drives thousands of people to request blood donors on Facebook each week. Our research suggests that when people have better information and tools, they’re more willing to donate blood — and it’s easier for people who need blood to find donors."
Facebook hasn't committed to launching any of this outside of India, but it might if things go well. Different laws and cultures around blood donation could make it less effective in some locales.
This effort is consistent with some of Facebook's other low-key ventures into public health over the years. As TechCrunch notes, Facebook introduced a similar tool back in 2012 to promote and encourage organ donation. That feature is still operational today.
In 2015, the social network partnered with several mental health organizations, including Forefront, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Save.org, to offer users new tools to help prevent suicide.