Are we still promoting regular and thorough hand washing as the best way to prevent the spread of infection?

Posted by david 12/10/2015 0 Comment(s)

Last year I published a blog on UK's leading hand dryer supplier - HandryersUK. Promoting Global Hand Washing Day, which is celebrated on October the 15th each year. As a keen enthusiast and promoter of hand washing and hygiene related matters, I am again promoting hand washing day and celebrating this years’ focus, as well as looking at who is talking about and promoting hand washing in the media.

 

As a reminder, here are some of the facts surrounding the establishment of this yearly Global event. Established in 2001 the Global Public- Private Partnership for Handwashing is a coalition of international stakeholders whose focus is hand washing and child health.

The vision for the PPPPHW is that proper hand washing with soap at critical times will be universally recognized, promoted and practiced as fundamental to good health and, to this end it seeks to promote awareness, build political commitment, and trigger action on this critical issue at local, national and international levels.

 

To help achieve this vision the PPPHW founded Global Handwashing Day. ( www.globalhandwashingday.org). First celebrated in 2008 Global Handwashing Day was initially developed to promote hygiene amongst school children.This annual event has grown in scope and reach. Now over 200 million people participate in Global Handwashing Day celebrations, and many millions more hear messages about good hygiene through media outreach.

 

This year the focus is ‘’Raise a hand for hygiene’’, which is designed to conjure up an image of affiliation. Also, people raise their hands to be counted, and this theme is a reminder that governments can, and should count how many people wash their hands, and who has access to adequate hygiene facilities in homes, schools and hospitals. In this way governments should then be able to have knowledge of where resources should be concentrated. Raising a hand can also draw attention to the need for change, from, parents urging for a better school hygiene policy, to celebrities raising a hand to ask politicians to fund hygiene program

 

PPPHW Acting Secretariat Director Hanna Woodburn adds “I am often asked why handwashing needs its own day. The simple fact is that while hygiene is critically important to health, education, and equity it is often overlooked. Governments don’t prioritize investment in hygiene. It gets neglected at the project level. And, far too often, people just don’t wash their hands. Global Handwashing Day seeks to shine a spotlight on this issue and catalyse action.”

 

This theme links closely with the Sustainable Development Goals, which have recently been launched, following on from the Millennium Development Goals set up by the United Nations in 2000. The SDG’s are an inter- governmentally agreed setof 17 targets relating to international development, and include :-ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change and protecting oceans and forests. The United Nations says the SDGs go much further than the previous goals, because they address the root causes of poverty, and pledge to leave no one behind, including vulnerable groups. They are intended to be universal, applying to all countries rather than just the developing world. However, although hygiene is included alongside sanitation in target 6.2 of the SDG’s, it is neglected at the indicator level, which means that it would not be measured globally.

 

Katie Greenland, Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine adds "The GHD theme that people should 'raise a hand' and hold their governments accountable for hygiene is directly linked with the Sustainable Development Goals because there is a hygiene target but no specific indicator to count the 'raised hands'. This makes it difficult to track progress towards the target and really hold governments accountable, which also means that the progress that is made may be slower than it could be."Alongside this global event, new initiatives and reminders have also been recently reported in the news, aimed at highlighting hand washing in healthcare and school settings.

 

The Lancet reported on an interactive web based tool known as PRIMIT which has been designed to reduce the spread of colds and flu:- by teaching people simple techniques to avoid catching and passing on viruses, and by monitoring their hand washing behaviour and giving feedback. Researchers tested it on around 16,000 households in the UK during the winter flu season .Over a 16 week study period the risk of catching a flu like illness or an RTI was lowered by 20% in the group using the web based tool. Professor Little,(the head of primary care research at the University of Southampton), who led the study, said:‘ This could have an important impact on reducing the spread of these viruses in the general population, and also help reduce the pressure on NHS services during the winter months. If hand washing could be increased from 5 or 6 to 10 times a day it would have an important effect on reducing the spread of bugs and infections.’With the commencement of the new school year, numerous articles have appeared in the Times, Guardian, BBC news, Daily Trust and Health Aim, emphasising that the most effective way of reducing the spread of diseases is through rigorous hand washing.

 

Unfortunately, when children are studying or playing it is easy for them to forget to wash their hands after using the toilet or before eating. Even if they do remember it is unlikely that they will wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds. Recent suggestions are that, alongside:- reading books, pens and pencils, and packed lunches, hand washing sanitizers should be a regular part of the contents of school bags.

 

‘Children should be taught about hand washing in schools says NICE’ (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).’Lessons should cover where microbes are found, how they are spread, and why hand washing is important’. It recommends ‘running tepid water over hands before applying soap, coating the skin thoroughly and rubbing all the hands’ surfaces thoroughly for 10 to 15, seconds paying particular attention to fingers, thumbs and areas between fingers, before rinsing’

 

 It’s also helpful for parents to explain to children why it’s important to wash their hands, and for them to set a good example by following a hand-washing routine at home, as well as explaining the need to wash hands, after, using the bathroom, sneezing or blowing their nose, and before eating.

 

So let’s all keep talking about the need for regular and rigorous hand washing either by reading or reporting on studies, articles, or new innovations, or by celebrating important dates in the hand washing and hygiene calendar.

 

Global Handwashing day is just around the corner and its aims and aspirations are just as relevant in 2015 and beyond, as they were when it was set up in 2001. Happy Hand Washing! What can you do at home school, work or in your local community to promote it?

 

With thanks to :-

Dr Beverley Connolly  - Infectious Diseases at Cincennatti Childrens’ Hospital Medical Centre.  beverley.connelly@cchmc.org

Lucielle Campanero- Health Aim.

Kate Lay- Health Correspondent the Times Health News.  kate.lay@thetimes.co.uk

NICE- National Institute for Health Excellence.

James Meikle- The Guardian. james.meikle@guardian.co.uk

Tim Kellow- Concern Universal’s Country Director c/o    cu,uk@concern- universal.org

Ben Ezeamala-  Premium Times

Hanna Woodburn- Acting Secretariat Director at FHI 360, Global Public- Private Partnership for Handwashing- hwoodburn@fhi360.org

Katie Greenland – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine- Katie.Greenland@lshtm.ac.uk 

Professor Little- Southampton University.

Professor – Chris Van Weel- Radbound University- The Netherlands.

Lakshmi Darshini- General Health News.

Melanie Mawson- The Morning Show Anchor Reporter- mlawson@wjwt.com

Michael Koniarczyk – Community Internal Medicine. Cleveland Clinic

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