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Israeli Ministry of Health reverses blood donation policy

Edward Kaplan

Ed Kaplan

The Israeli Ministry of Health recently agreed to reverse a blood donation policy and will now allow some Ethiopian immigrants, homosexuals and elderly people to donate blood. According to the Jerusalem Post, the change is a result of “new local and foreign epidemiological data and the improvement in medical technologies and risk assessment.”

The Post noted that the policy change resulted from the recommendation of a committee headed by Professor Manfred Green, director of the global health leadership and administration program at the University of Haifa’s School of Public Health, and other professionals and public representatives and ethicists.

The Post also reported that the recommendation was influenced by another committee report written 18 months ago, a committee that included INFORMS President Ed Kaplan, a professor of operations research, public health and engineering at Yale University.

In 2014, Kaplan was appointed to the Ministry of Health’s committee on evaluating Israel’s blood donation policy. In that role he developed models for the probability that infectious blood (HIV, HBV) could enter the blood supply for alternative blood exclusion/deferral policy proposals under different scenarios. This updated Kaplan’s published research from as far back as 1998 by taking into account improvements in the characteristics of tests used to detect HIV along with the best epidemiological estimates of HIV infection among would-be donors in Israel, all of which helped to buttress the conclusions and recommendations of the 2014 committee.

Following an Israeli election, however, control of the Ministry of Health went from one political party to another, and the report appeared to have been shelved until recently when the Ministry of Health announced that they had accepted the 2014 committee’s recommendations as presented by Professor Green’s committee.

As the Post recently reported, “in accordance with what is accepted in other developed countries, [the revised policy] provides the proper balance between protecting public health and the need for equity and the expansion of the pool of potential blood donors.”

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