Simply washing your hands can reduce the reduce respiratory illnesses, such as colds, in the general public by 21 percent, cut the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31 percent and lower diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58 percent, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite these compelling facts, and many years of global awareness campaigns, hand-cleaning rates remain far below full compliance — particularly in low-income, developing world settings. But using video surveillance to observe hygiene practices can offers insights that may help improve design, monitoring and evaluation of hand-washing campaigns, according to a new Stanford study.
For the study, researchers installed video cameras at the washing stations outside latrines of four public schools in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Teachers were informed in advance and parents and administrators granted their permission for the experiment. Their findings were highlighted in a Stanford News article published yesterday:
- Both video observation and in-person observation demonstrated longer hand cleaning times for hand washing with soap as compared to rubbing with sanitizer.
- Students at schools equipped with soap and water, instead of sanitizer, were 1.3 times more likely to wash their hands during simultaneous video surveillance and in-person observation when compared with periods of in-person observation alone.
- Overall, when students were alone at a hand-cleaning station, hand cleaning rates averaged 48 percent, compared to 71 percent when at least one other student was present.
Based on their findings, study authors recommended the following approaches for boosting hand washing:
- Placement of hand cleaning materials in public locations
- Scheduling specific times for bathroom breaks between classes
- Designating specific students to be hand hygiene "champions"
- Formation of student clubs to demonstrate and promote hand hygiene to classmates
Previously: Examining the effectiveness of hand sanitizers, Survey outlines barriers to handwashing in schools, Examining hand hygiene in the emergency department, Good advice from Washyourhandsington and Hey, health workers: Washing your hands is good for your patients
Photo by Amy Pickering