Umbilical cord blood is a source of hematopoietic stem cells essential to treat life-threatening diseases, such as leukemia and lymphoma. However, only a very small percentage of parents donate upon delivery. The decision to donate the cord blood occurs at a very specific time and when parents likely experience emotional, informational, and decisional overloads; these features of cord blood donation make it different from other pro-social activities. In collaboration with an OB-GYN clinic in Milan, Italy, we conducted the first randomized controlled trial that applies tools from behavioral science to foster cord blood donation, and quantified the gains that informational and behavioral "nudges" can achieve. We found that information and "soft" commitments increased donations; approaching expecting parents closer to the delivery date and providing them with multiple reminders, moreover, had the strongest impact. However, a significant portion of women who expressed consent to donate could not do so because of organizational constraints. We conclude that simple, non-invasive behavioral interventions that address information gaps and procrastination, and that increase the salience of the activity can substantially enhance altruistic donations of cord blood, especially when coupled with organizational support.
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