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Research on Social and Behavioral Interventions to Increase Organ Donation Grant Program 1999-2004

School-based Interventions

Several interventions have focused on educating school-aged children in high school settings. These educational interventions have been done in three different contexts: health education classes, driver's education classes, and through the internet.

A traditional classroom-based intervention was conducted in Buffalo18. This began with the development of an organ donation curriculum to educate teachers about the issue. The project then contrasted the effect of having the project team lead classroom presentations and discussions against teacher-led programs. Compared to control groups, pre/post-test surveys demonstrated that both groups did equally well in increasing student knowledge and willingness to donate organs. Especially innovative was the component that required students to interview their parents about their views of donation. This part of the intervention had a substantial impact on parents' donation-related behaviors: 20% of parents reported having signed a donor card as a result, with another 46% reporting that they would now "seriously consider" becoming an organ donor. As with smoking cessation and seat belt use, it appears that organ donation may be another issue where young people have a strong influence on their parents' attitudes.

In the Washington, D.C. area19, 15 diverse schools participated in a drivers' education program. Half of the schools were assigned to a control condition, while the other half received a 90-minute educational program consisting of videos, presentation of factual information about organ donation, and open discussions. Both groups were given t-shirts and other incentives for their participation in the study. Results, however, were mixed. Both the control and intervention groups increased in their intent to donate, as measured by pre/post surveys. (Pre-test surveys were administered two weeks before the intervention and post-tests were administered immediately after the intervention.) However, knowledge did increase in one set of intervention group schools (n = 5).

An educational web-based intervention20 targeting children was developed by a Michigan team. "The Transplant Journey" leads users through the transplant process, highlighting both information about human biology as well as the impact of organ transplants on people's lives. Half the students were randomly assigned to a control group and were directed toward a website that provided information about the common cold. At the end of both educational units, students (N = 490) were given the opportunity to follow a link to the Michigan donor registry. Nearly 16% of the control group students followed the link to the registry, while almost 22% of the intervention group students took the opportunity to visit the registry. Although this difference did not prove to be statistically significant, pre/post-test comparisons on measures of knowledge, attitudes, and willingness to donate all showed a statistically significant advantage for the intervention group.

Other projects targeting school-aged children are currently in progress. The findings from these three projects are somewhat mixed and it remains to be seen which intervention elements are associated with the most favorable outcomes.


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