Potential of social media remains untapped in India

A recent paper published in American Journal of Transplantation said social media push boosted the number of people who registered as organ donors 21-fold in a day

Written by Mihika Basu | Mumbai | Published:July 3, 2013 12:37 am

A recent paper published in American Journal of Transplantation said social media push boosted the number of people who registered as organ donors 21-fold in a day. A similar initiative,however,is missing in India.

The website of Marrow Donor Registry of India (MDRI) had links to its Facebook page and YouTube over six months ago. While there are ‘likes’,no donor has come through this platform. MDRI is a database of unrelated marrow donors and facilitates marrow and blood stem cell transplants. “There has been no impact of going on Facebook so far,but we are hopeful. We need to create awareness. Also,we must appreciate that most Indians have no access to computers/Facebook/YouTube or applications such as BBM and WhatsApp,” said MDRI chairman Sunil Parekh,a haematologist with a Mumbai clinic. MDRI,which started in 2009,has 15,000 voluntary marrow donors.

Gustad Daver,president of Zonal Transplant and Coordinating Centre (ZTCC),said conferences and talks are used to spread awareness. “But we could explore the possibility of using social networking.”

Viswanath Billa,consultant nephrologist and kidney transplant physician at Bombay Hospital,said kidney donation was governed by law and social media could be misued.

“We cannot use social media to create a database of those who want to donate kidneys. Agents may turn it into a money-making racket. But we can definitely use Facebook/Twitter for blood transfusion,” said Dr Bilwa,coordinator of Apex Swap Transplant Registry.

He and a team of doctors recently performed the first domino kidney swap in India. He says the registry is out of bounds to others and is managed by a dedicated group of doctors. “We also insist the request for transplant be accompanied by a letter from a nephrologist and a physical visit to the registry is a must before we proceed. We have to be careful that the donor and recipient are genuine,” he said.

Social media,however,seems to have worked well for Deceased Organ Retrieval Sharing Organisation (DORSO),an autonomous and recognised agency for Delhi State Deceased Organ Retrieval Transplant Authority. “We are linked with Facebook and Twitter. Around 1,000 members have pledged organs to DORSO on our Facebook page. Social media do make a huge difference,” said S K Sarin,director of Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences,Delhi,which is responsible for initiating and supervising the framework for DORSO.

Prof Debashis Sanyal,dean of School of Business Management at NMIMS,said social media can be a good platform. In 2010,NMIMS and Jennifer Aaker of Stanford started a cheek swab drive for the first time in India,which can be used as an effective treatment for blood cancer. “We are keen to look at how we can use social media to create awareness,” he said.

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