Q&A: CDC promotes public hand hygiene campaign
The CDC launched a national campaign called Life is Better with Clean Hands to promote the importance of hand-washing among adults.
According to the CDC, critical moments when hands should be washed include:
- After touching animals;
- After feeding animals or handling their food, including pet food and treats;
- After handling animal habitats or equipment (cages, tanks, toys, food and water dishes);
- After cleaning up after pets;
- After leaving areas where animals live (coops, barns, stalls), even if you did not touch an animal;
- After using the bathroom;
- After touching garbage;
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea;
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet;
- Before eating and drinking;
- Before preparing food or drinks; and
- After removing soiled clothes or shoes.
Launched by the CDC’s One Health Office, the campaign aims to connect human, animal and environmental health by reminding the public to practice good hand hygiene.
Infectious Disease News spoke with Ashley Andujar, MHSA, a health communication specialist in the CDC’s Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, about the campaign.
Q: Who is the CDC hoping to target with the Life is Better with Clean Hands campaign?
A: Although we hope everyone can benefit from the information provided by the Life is Better with Clean Hands campaign, parents or caregivers of young children are one of our most important audiences. Teaching kids how to wash their hands at an early age can create a lifelong healthy habit.
Q: What prompted the campaign?
A: Improving hand-washing and other hand hygiene practices in community settings is critical for disease prevention. Many diseases and conditions are spread in the community because people do not wash their hands properly with soap and water. Germs like norovirus and Escherichia coli can be transferred from contaminated hands if they are not washed properly after using the bathroom or changing a diaper. Communicating to the public about the importance of hand-washing in community settings is the first step in affecting positive behavior change.
A: Through our campaign materials, we want to motivate and educate adults about proper hand hygiene. Our campaign materials help raise awareness about the importance of hand-washing at key times, such as before cooking or after using the bathroom; and around good hand-washing practices, such as scrubbing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. And if soap and water are not readily available, people can use an alcohol-based sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
Q: Is there a role for ID clinicians in disseminating the campaign’s messages?
A: Hand-washing is critical to prevent the spread of disease in clinical and community settings, so we encourage clinicians to spread the word and encourage good hand hygiene. Doctors and nurses play an important role in the lives of their patients by giving them the tools and information they need to keep themselves healthy. Clinicians can use the campaign materials to educate patients about proper hand-washing techniques, especially during key times when people are likely to get and spread germs.
Q: Are there data showing that such campaigns have an impact?
A: Hand-washing education in the community can have a substantial impact on people’s health. Studies have shown handwashing education in the community reduces 1) the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by as much as 31%; 2) diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%; and 3) respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16% to 21%.
CDC. Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/campaign.html?deliveryName=USCDC_1164-DM11017. Accessed October 18, 2019.
Disclosure: Andujar reports no relevant financial disclosures.