In Stockholm, blood donors get a text when they’ve saved a life

O- donors wanted in Sweden. Image:

I think I’d like to know when my blood is coursing through someone else’s veins. Great news, then, that a Swedish blood centres now text donors to notify them when their blood is used to help save someone’s life.

The initiative kicked off in Stockholm three years ago. It’s had such a positive response, on social media and beyond, that it’s now being rolled out across the whole country.

Image: Screenshot of @robertlenne's Twitter feed.

In fact, donors get several such texts. One thanks them for donating; others express gratitude whenever the blood is used. A spokeswoman for the Stockholm blood service, Karolina Blom Wiberg, told the Independent: "We are constantly trying to develop ways to express [donors'] importance. We want to give them feedback on their effort, and we find this is a good way to do that."

In other words, it’s a way of both making people feel appreciated, and, we suspect, reminding them that they might want to donate again some time. Nifty.

This isn’t the only way the Swedish authorities are using better communications to encourage blood donors. To avoid a shortage, the authorities have decided the best way is to be open and honest about how much blood they actually have. Dynamic online infographics keep track of which blood types the blood banks in various regions require to remain at safe levels in future. (You can see a screenshot at the top of this page.)

”The same info as we have internally is shown externally,“ Blom Wiberg says. The hope is that, in times of need, people will run to their nearest clinic, arms at the ready and give, give, give.

Maybe the UK could learn a few lessons here. According to NHS data released in early June, there are 40 per cent fewer donors today than there were 10 years ago. With stats like that, maybe we could all do with some encouragement by text.

If you fancy giving blood in the UK, then why not click here.

Kat Houston is web editor at Design Curial.


How spurious imperial science affected the layout of African cities

Freetown, Sierra Leone. Image: David Hond/Freetown From The Air/Wikimedia Commons.

As the European powers spread across the world, systematically colonising it as they went, one of the deadliest enemies they faced was disease. In 1850s India, one in twenty British soldiers were dying from such diseases – on a par with British Empire casualty rates during World War II.

When Europeans started dropping dead the minute they got off the boat, the scientists of the day rushed to provide their own, at times fairly dodgy, solutions. This era coincided with a key period of city planning in the African colonies – meaning that there is still visible evidence of this shoddy science in the cityscape of many modern African cities.
For a long time altitude was considered a protection against disease, on the grounds that it was far from the lowland heat associated with putrefaction. British officials in India retreated to the ‘hill stations’ during the warm season; this practice continued in the African colonies established by all sorts of European powers in the late 19th century.

So it was that one bunch of imperialists established the capital of German Kamerun at Buea, high on the side of Mount Cameroon. The city still has a population of 90,000 today. Evidence of this height fetish can still be found in the ‘Plateau’ districts of Brazzaville, Dakar and Abidjan as well as the ‘Ridge’ district of Accra.

Malaria, particularly, was an ever present fear in the colonies, and it did much to shape the colonial cities. It’s a sign of the extent to which 19th century medical science misunderstood how the disease was spread that its name comes from the French for ‘bad air’. By the late 19th century, knowledge had managed to progress far enough to identify mosquitoes as the culprits – but views still wildly diverged about the appropriate response.

One solution popular in many empires was segregation. The Europeans had incorrectly identified Africans as the main carriers of the disease; African children under five were believed to be the main source of malaria so they were to be kept far away from the colonists at all times.

And so, many powers decided that the European settlers should be housed in their own separate areas. (Of course, this wrong headed but at least rational response wasn’t the whole explanation: often, sanitary concerns were used to veil simple racial chauvinism.)

The affluent Hill Station – a name reminiscent of the Indian colonies – in Freetown, Sierra Leone was built as a segregated suburb so Europeans could keep well clear of the local children. Today, it’s where the home of the president can be found. Yet despite all this expensive shuffling of Freetown’s urban landscape, inhabitants of Hill Station came down with malaria at about the same as those who lived elsewhere.


The Uganda Golf Course, Kampala. Image: Google Maps.

In Kampala, Uganga, a golf course now occupies the land designated by the British powers to protect the European neighbourhood from the African. A similar appropriation can be seen in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of The Congo, where a zoo, botanical garden and another golf course can be found the land earmarked for protecting colonial officials and their families.

All this urban juggling was the privilege of immensely powerful colonial officials, backed up by the military might of the imperial powers. The indigenous peoples could do little but watch as their cities were bulldozed and rebuilt based on the whims of the day. Yet the scars are still visible in the fabric of many modern African cities today.