How can we support and promote a culture of ‘Hand Washing’?

Posted by Arron 27/06/2013 0 Comment(s)

World Health Organisation

Research carried out by Dr. Ron Cutler of Queen Mary University of London found that up to 11% of hands are grossly contaminated (carrying as many germs as a toilet bowl) and a new study by Michigan State University, led by Carl Borchgrevink, found that only 5% of people who used the bathroom washed their hands long enough to kill germs. It takes 15 to 20 seconds of vigorous hand washing with soap to effectively  kill germs, but on average peope were found to be only washing their hands for about 6 seconds.  Although the two most crucial times to wash hands is after using the toilet and before eating, Dr Val Curtis, director of the Hygiene Centre of LSHTM found that only 39% of people wash their hands before consuming food.

The Facts

(University of ColoradoBoulder ) What’s on Our Hands

  • The average persons hands carries 3,000 bacteria which belong to 100 species
  • Everyone has a unique bacteria ‘fingerprint’.
  • At room temperature bacteria can remain unchanged on an object after two weeks.
  • It takes 20 seconds of washing with soap and water to kill germs (the average person is thought to only spend 6 seconds).

How are we helping to promote hand washing?

The Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention reiterate that many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and water. Failure to wash one’s hands contributes to nearly 50% of all foodborne illnesses. Around  2.2 million children die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. Although people around the world wash their hands with water, very few use soap. Handwashing with soap could protect 1 out of 3 young children with diarrhea and 1 in 6 children with respiratory infections like pneumonia

On the 5th May 2013 The Save Lives, Clean Your Hands annual global campaign was celebrated. Organised by the World Health Organization (WHO) the first day was organized in 2009 to improve hand hygiene world wide, and reduce infections. Over 12,000 facilities from around the world took part. SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands includes a global annual day to focus on the importance of improving hand hygiene in health care with the WHO providing support for these efforts.

Hygiene Centre Staff at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have been actively involved in setting up and managing the Global Public Private Partnership to Promote Hand Washing with Soap. This Partnership initiated Global Handwashing Day, (Celebrated on October 15th), which was originally created for children and schools but can be celebrated by anyone promoting hand washing with soap. It was first initiated in 2008 and is endorsed by governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGO’s, private companies and individuals around the world. “The simple act of hand washing with soap is the most effective way to save children’s lives “ said Sanjay Wijesekera, Global Head of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes. “ Washing hands before eating and after defecation drastically reduces the spread of diarrhoeal diseases and has far reaching effects on the health and welfare of children.”

Washing hands with soap has been found to reduce the spread of Pneumonia, which is the biggest killer of children under 5. In addition, Diarrhoea is thought to kill almost 600,00 children under 5 each year. New figures from UNICEF say 1,400 children are still dying from the disease each day! Hand washing with soap can reduce this figure  by up to 45% . Studies carried out during the 2006 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome also suggested that washing hands could cut the spread of the respiratory virus by up to 55%. This means hand washing could be more effective than any single vaccine!

Each year, on October 15th, over 200 million people are involved in hand washing celebrations in over 100 countries around the world.

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World Toilet Day November 19th

On the 24th July 2013, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously voted to officially designate the 19th November as World Toilet Day. At least 36% of the world’s populations still live without adequate toilets. This has grave implications on people’s health, well being and dignity, as well as the environment and social and economic development. World Toilet day is a chance to raise awareness of the sanitation crisis and what can be done to address it, as well as to continue to promote hand washing with soap after defecation.

National Handwashing Awareness Week Dec 1st to 7th

National Handwashing Awareness Week 1st- 7th December 2013 is an American based initiative founded by Doctor Will Sawyer, an Infection Prevention Specialist. Handwashing Awareness Week encourages family, friends, students and co- workers to keep a track of the number of times they wash their hands using a hand washing chart. They can then submit the form to be eligible for a prize.

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Hand Washing Awareness Rules. (Courtesy of Health Reach Community Health Centers

  • Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing nappies , cleaning up after your pets, or handling money.
  • Wash your hands when they’re dirty.
  • Always wash your hands before eating; and before, during and after preparing food.
  • Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands.
  • Refrain from putting your fingers in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid touching people and surfaces with unclean hands.

Correct way of washing hands ( Health Reach CHC)

  1. Wet hands with warm water (not hot) and use soap.
  2. Rub your hands together, around and between thumbs and fingers, making sure to scrub all areas including palms and backs of hands.
  3. Rub for a minimum of 20 seconds. ( the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice)
  4. Rinse thoroughly, then dry hands on a clean towel.
  5. Turn off the tap with a clean paper towel and dispose in a proper receptacle.


Community Led Total Sanitation Project (CLTS)

Unicef Hygiene Factsheet

Press Release –UNICEF New York – on Global Handwashing Day – 15th Oct 2013 eew- only- 5- percent- wash – hands – correctly

Denise Winterman ‘Why are the British so bad at washing their hands?- 15th Oct 2012


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