Encouraging Proper Hand Hygiene Is Key For Infection Control

Washing your hands with soap stops the spread of many lethal diseases. Yet most people don't wash their hands, even after using the bathroom, Dr. Myriam Sidibe said in a recent TED talk.
Sidibe, who researched hand washing with soap while she got her PhD in public health, wants to reverse the trend. Now, as the Hygiene and Nutrition Social Mission Director for Unilever Africa and one of the driving forces behind the creation of Global Handwashing Day, she studies the most effective ways to get children to wash their hands with soap, according to an article on the WPSU website.
Custodial professionals can play an important role in hand hygiene by working with their teachers and school administrative colleagues to implement in-school hygiene education programs designed to promote the importance of hand washing and reduce student absenteeism, according to an article on the CleanLink website.

The “Healthy Schools, Healthy People: the School Network for Absenteeism Prevention” program — a joint initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cleaning Institute — seeks to improve hand hygiene habits to help prevent the spread of infectious disease and reduce related absenteeism. The goal is to enhance health by making handwashing an integral part of the school day.

First piloted in 2003, thousands of schools and hundreds of thousands of students have used the program to improve hand hygiene.
To encourage students to learn more about handwashing and its importance, programs like “Healthy Schools” provide tools that custodial executives can use to help make washing hands a habit throughout the day. Many of these programs provide resources to start, supplement, support, and promote in-school handwashing initiatives. These resources include ideas for teachers and suggested activities for student participants.

The American Cleaning Institute encourages custodial executives to work with school administrators and education professionals to ensure that each building has the hygiene supplies it needs, so students and staff can easily wash their hands with soap and water.
“Washing hands with soap — a habit we all take for granted — can reduce diarrhea by half, can reduce respiratory infections by one-third. Washing with soap can also have an impact on reducing flu, trachoma, SARS, and most recently, in the case of cholera and Ebola outbreak,” Sidibe said. “Hand washing with soap is one of the most cost-effective ways to save a childs life. It can save over 600,000 children every year. I think you'll agree with me that that's a pretty useful public health initiative.”
Cleaning professionals can download free hand-hygiene posters and other materials here.