Study: Schools Can Cut Risk of Illness by Implementing Hygiene Programs
Schools can be breeding grounds for germs that can lead to illness and significant absenteeism: 189 million school days are lost to the common cold and nearly 38 million to influenza each year. However, data from a new study shows that students who practice proper hand and surface hygiene in the classroom can effectively reduce the risk of germ transmission.
The study, conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional, tested surface contamination on some of the most frequently touched objects in six elementary schools. Hygienists first performed Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) testing to determine baseline contamination levels. Participating schools then implemented Super Germ Fighters, a customized educational program for kindergarten through fifth grade, and The Healthy Classroom Station, which provides kid-friendly products – like hand sanitizers, alcohol and bleach-free surface wipes, and anti-viral facial tissue – to teach students how to "wash, wipe and sanitize" to help reduce the spread of germs.
The study found that, when students were provided with the tools and knowledge necessary to break the chain of germ transmission in the classroom, contamination levels were significantly reduced throughout the entire school. After the program had been in place for seven months, contamination levels were reduced on average by the following amounts:
• 76 percent on bathroom stall door locks
• 71 percent on desks
• 53 percent on door handles
• 45 percent on cafeteria tables
• 41 percent on computer mice
• 34 percent on water fountain buttons
One of the most significant reductions in contamination was on classroom desks – surfaces that the students were personally responsible for wiping down on a daily basis. In some cases, ATP levels fell from as high as 838 to as low as 243. An ATP reading of 300 or more is considered to pose a high risk for illness transmission.
"The study results demonstrate that providing young students with age-appropriate educational materials and products designed to instill good hygiene habits can have a profound effect on behaviors, which in turn can reduce germs inside and outside the classroom," said Richard Marriott, Education Target Market Leader, Kimberly-Clark Professional. "These results are even more significant when you consider the impact that illnesses can have on students, parents and teachers."
Also notable was the drop in contamination levels outside the classroom, especially on the bathroom stall door locks. While the children were only exposed to the products and the germ reduction curriculum inside the classroom, in one school, the locks' ATP levels, which began at a high of 974, dropped to 230, demonstrating that the students made a conscious effort to change their hand hygiene habits in areas outside of their classrooms as well.
"Teachers and parents everywhere are well aware of the issue of germs in our schools," said Robert Starner, Principal, Bridgeway Christian Academy, Alpharetta, Ga. "These study results are impressive. The combination of the interactive lesson plans provided in the Super Germ Fighters program, along with effective germ-fighting products, have helped us keep our students healthier and our classrooms more productive."
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