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If You're Reading This, Wash Your Hands!

October 14, 2011

What if you could do something to reduce your daughter’s risk of pneumonia by 25 percent, or your son’s chance of having severe diarrhea by 50 percent?  You’d want to take action and spread the word, right?  Well, teach them to wash their hands.

October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, and hundreds of events around the world will promote a culture of handwashing and shine a spotlight on the current state of handwashing in every country.

Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to reduce disease and improve maternal and child health, but we still have work to do before we can make handwashing a universal practice.  For example, we need to understand which health education messages are most effective in convincing mothers to take up handwashing and teach it to their children.  Are general family health messages sufficient, or should education campaigns focus on the need to protect children?  Are some messages more effective than others in certain cultures?  We need good answers to each of these questions. One place where important work is being done on these topics is at the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh.  

We also need to understand which approaches are cost-efficient and sustainable.  While a study might reveal that there is high uptake of behavior change when it is delivered through weekly visits by field workers, such high-intensity engagement might be prohibitively expensive to maintain over time.

That’s why one of the key dimensions of our Water, Sanitation & Hygiene strategy is to include funding for monitoring, learning, and evaluation grants that are focused on generating the evidence required to promote effective and sustainable behavior change.  For more information on our MLE activities, see page 4 of our strategy overview.

And remember to wash your hands after reading this post!  Studies suggest that some computer keyboards are less sanitary than the average toilet!

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