ABC’s of Marrow Recruitment in your Community
Familiarize yourself with the issues, and the “nuts and bolts” of blood cancers and the role of bone marrow donation. Understand that you can make a true difference and save people’s lives by recruiting just one person more into the marrow donation pool.
Identify a community of focus
We believe the best way to approach any community-specific public health project is to identify a target population. In our case, we chose to concentrate our initial efforts on Worcester’s Vietnamese population, a large, well-organized but medically-underserved community.
Here, the best place to begin is with the cultural and/or religious entities that serve those communities. In our instance, we began early on to work with two key partners: Worcester’s Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, and the Central Massachusetts Area Health Education Center (AHEC).
Know your community
In any community, cultural and/or religious norms are integral to their way of life. Shared values and unique beliefs must be taken into account when organizing your project; being mindful of these factors will help you be more culturally competent, and will make your project more effective.
Remember, you are not in this alone—whether or not you know anyone willing to lend a hand, finding people eager to help may be easier than you think. Brainstorming on your part may reveal a network of neighbors, fellow classmates, churchgoers, or co-workers ready to join your recruitment project. Don’t forget also that community-based organizations may be your best resource.
Decide on an action plan
Here is a key step because it requires recognizing that a successful marrow recruitment program starts well before the actual screening drive. In our case, we have determined that before advertising and scheduling a marrow recruitment drive for Vietnamese residents of Worcester, it is crucial for us to engage in educational programming first. We held focus groups with members of the community to discuss issues surrounding marrow donation, and have developed an educational video about marrow recruitment with that community. Our goal is to ensure that by the time we schedule a marrow drive targeted to this community, we will have developed an awareness of the issue and an understanding of its importance, resulting in a strong turnout.
Contact marrow registries
The marrow registries are the ones who will be sending personnel to your drive for the actual screening. In our experience, once the registries know about your interest in this work, they will be calling YOU to join other bone marrow drive efforts in your area!
Hold your marrow drive
This is the easiest part! And the most fun, because you will be gratified to see how all your efforts make a difference. Screening costs about $70/person, and may be covered by the partner registry.
Reflect on your weaknesses and strengths, successes and failures of your initial foray into marrow recruitment. Continue to build capacity by welcoming new members to your planning team, and fostering relationships with community organizations. Remember that you have already learned a great deal about how to make a difference, and capitalize on that knowledge to make it even better next time.