Global Handwashing Day (15 October) is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases. The day is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap.
It is said that the COVID-19 pandemic provides a stark reminder that handwashing is one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of any virus and ensure better health outcomes overall. This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme is Hand Hygiene for All, calling for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene now and for the future.
Hand Hygiene for All this Global Handwashing Day
This year’s theme reminds us that we must work toward universal access and practice of handwashing with soap for now and for a healthy future. But, making hand hygiene available and accessible for all requires a multi-faceted, society-wide approach.
First, this means an urgent need for improvement in access to sustainable hand hygiene services (hand-washing facilities, regular water supply, soap or alcohol-based hand rub).
Second, behaviour change interventions should address the full range of drivers to support optimal hand hygiene behaviour. And finally, components such as policy, coordination, regulation and financing which underpin hand hygiene services and behaviour change need to be strengthened.
“COVID-19 has reminded decision-makers about the importance of hand hygiene, but systems may need to be reimagined to sustain a culture of hand hygiene,” writes the United Nations. “This may include structural reforms within governments and institutions; enhancing the institutional, regulatory and legal foundations for hygiene access and hygiene promotion; implementing inclusive hygiene programming at scale, integrating hygiene programming across various sectors; and monitoring and enforcing hygiene requirements in public and private commercial settings, including schools and health care facilities.”
The SA government also said that marking this important Global Handwashing Day also serves as a call for all South Africans to wash hands regularly especially after using the toilet, changing baby nappies, handling waste and before preparing food.
Hand hygiene impacts health and COVID-19:
- Handwashing can reduce diarrheal diseases by 30% to 48%.
- Handwashing can reduce acute respiratory infections by 20%.
- Handwashing plays an important role in reducing the transmission of outbreak-related pathogens such as cholera, Ebola, shigellosis, SARS and hepatitis E.
- Hand hygiene is protective against healthcare-associated infections and reduces the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
- Hand hygiene may contribute to the reduction of Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Improving Hand Hygiene Behaviours
- Hygiene promotion is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions in general and for COVID-19 prevention.
- It is valuable for people to know the health benefits of handwashing, how to wash their hands and the critical times it should be practised.
- Try changing the physical environment to cue and enable hand-washing behaviour.
- Handwashing behaviours naturally increase during outbreaks, but work should be done to ensure sustainable behaviour long-term.
Visit the Global Handwashing Day website for more Global Handwashing Day information.
Read the original article on The South African