Hand Hygiene: Focus On Community Settings

Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. On Global Handwashing Day, the CDC Foundation is pleased to announce a new phase in a program aimed at improving hand hygiene to combat infection.

On any given day, about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection. One simple yet effective way to prevent these types of infections is by practicing hand hygiene—which is particularly important for healthcare workers. To help address this issue, the CDC Foundation and CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, with support from GOJO, launched a hand hygiene campaign in 2016 called Clean Hands Count. The purpose of this campaign is to improve hand hygiene outreach in U.S. healthcare facilities by creating a comprehensive initiative that reaches a broad group of healthcare providers, patients and caregivers.

However, improving handwashing and hand sanitizing in community settings, like schools, offices and restaurants, is also a key strategy to prevent the transmission of illness and infection. Many diseases and conditions are spread in the community because people do not wash their hands properly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer at key moments when soap and water are not available.

According to CDC, hand hygiene education in the community:

Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40 percent;
Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58 percent;
Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21 percent; and
Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57 percent.
Effective hand hygiene is critical to prevent and control epidemics, such as outbreaks of flu and more deadly diseases like Ebola. By reducing occurrence of illness and the subsequent need for antibiotics, regular handwashing or the use of a hand sanitizer in community settings can help prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections.

To improve hand hygiene in healthcare and community settings, we are pleased to announce a new phase of this partnership with the addition of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, and with continued support from GOJO and a new partner, Staples. The efforts will include a new hand hygiene campaign to improve hand hygiene habits in the community and will also aim to refine and extend the Clean Hands Count campaign.

A full suite of educational materials about the importance of hand hygiene in communities will be available in 2019. We are excited about the next phase of this project, and look forward to improving the health of healthcare workers, patients and visitors, and those in our communities through improved hand hygiene.