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Handwashing day highlights global hygiene pleas

Thursday October 15th, 2009

Shame may play a key role in improving hygiene and preventing infection, British experts said today - designated Global Handwashing Day by campaigners.

A study suggests that people are most likely to wash their hands if they think someone is watching them.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine set out to test the different electronic hygiene messages displayed in motorway service stations.

They set up sensors in toilets and were able to study the behaviour of some 250,000 people. They found that fewer than a third of men washed their hands with soap - while nearly two thirds of women did so.

Their findings, reported in the American Journal of Public Health, found that the most successful message was "is the person next to you washing with soap".

However men reacted best to a message that stated "soap it off or eat it later".

Researcher Gaby Judah said: "Our findings are particularly important on Global Handwashing Day, when many agencies concerned with improving health worldwide by encouraging people to wash their hands with soap will be looking to use best practice."

A second study conducted by the same centre concludes that schools will struggle to enforce strict hand hygiene, even during a flu outbreak.

Researchers studied four primary schools in the east of London, for the research reported in BMC Public Health.

WHO Director General Margaret ChanResearcher Wolf-Peter Schmidt said: "Intensive hand hygiene interventions are feasible and acceptable but only temporarily during a period of a particular health threat like an influenza pandemic and only if rinse-free hand sanitisers are used."

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation yesterday launched an ambitious study to prevent and treat diarrhoea in children.

Some 1.5 million children a year die from the problem, according to WHO.

WHO said hand-washing with soap could cut the rate of disease by 40 per cent.

WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: "We know where children are dying of diarrhoea. We know what must be done to prevent those deaths. We must work with governments and partners to put this seven-point plan into action."

Tags: Child Health | Flu & Viruses | MRSA & Hygiene | UK News | World Health

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