Sophie Xi-An Furter

Tackling Young Males› Misconception of Blood Stem Cell Donation

Sensing the System

Blood stem cell transplantations are potentially life-saving treatments for over 70 diseases. However, as of today, for 25% of the patients in Switzerland, a matching donor cannot be found. As the number of people needing stem cell transplantations will grow in the future, an extensive registry is critical in accelerating the chances of finding matches for patients in need to save their lives.
Since the outcome of a donation is linked to several characteristics of an individual, young males are the preferred donors. But why young males? Males can provide a higher dose of blood stem cells and are less likely to cause rejection reactions where the recipient’s body does not accept the transplant. At the same time, young people are less likely to be infected with cytomegalovirus and can stay on the registry for longer.
Even though young males are the preferred and ideal donors, they only comprise 35% of the Swiss blood stem cell registry. Hence, my thesis aimed to understand what factors are hindering and motivating young males in Switzerland from 18- 23 years to register as blood stem cell donors.


The Strategy

In order to gain a better understanding of the problem area and to understand the system within which it takes place, I first conducted secondary research. In a second step, I conducted interviews with Swiss Blood Stem Cells (the organization in Switzerland that has received the mandate from the federal government to maintain the Swiss donor registry and recruit donors), Marrow (Swiss Student Association, raising awareness of blood stem cell donation and recruiting donors), a transplanting physician, a blood stem cell recipient as well as with a blood stem cell donor. Additionally, nine male participants shared their personal thoughts in a toolkit. Once the basic understanding had been established, several stakeholders were involved in generating ideas for interventions and testing them later.



From the research, it became apparent that the key hindering factor is the general lack of awareness of blood stem cell donation. This includes the complete lack of awareness that blood stem cell donation exists and the fact that there are many misconceptions about not only the donation process but also the registration process. What also emerged from the research was that evoking empathy seems to be a key motivating factor to register.
Additionally, it appeared that women feel like they are no longer needed as blood stem cell donors due to SBSC’s current recruiting strategy.

The intervention of a charity soccer tournament is an inclusive intervention that raises awareness and conversation about the topic while simultaneously educating the participants and reducing their misconceptions, allowing them to make committed decisions about registration.