National Handwashing Awareness Week – December 1-7, 2020

Tuesday, December 01 2020

By Wai Khuan Ng, PhD, principal consultant, Asia-Pacific & International Infection Prevention and Control at Joint Commission International.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has modified the behavior of hand hygiene practices. The speed of the transmission and the frightful death rates have seen many countries introduce measures to curb the spread of COVID‐19, and hand hygiene has been an important part of the international response to the emergence of this disease. In honor of National Handwashing Awareness Week, let’s make hand hygiene habit a norm and sustain the habit – clean hands save lives!

Hand hygiene is one of the simplest yet most important and effective measure to maintain cleanliness and prevent infection.

Hand hygiene practice is applicable to all countries, from the developing to the most highly developed. Studies demonstrated that if health care organizations were able to sustain hand hygiene compliance rates of 70 – 80%, a substantial reduction of healthcare-associated infections would be seen.

Despite increased focus on hand hygiene in light of several infectious disease outbreaks, The World Health Organization reported hand hygiene compliance rates remain suboptimal, with mean baseline rates ranging from 5% to 89% and an overall average of 38.7%. Substantial efforts have been made to explore factors influencing health care workers’ hand hygiene compliance, and various interventions have been implemented to improve hand hygiene compliance, often with unfavorable outcomes.

In multiple studies, the implementation of multifaceted strategies has significantly increased hand hygiene compliance. However, compliance often returns to preintervention levels once the active hand hygiene intervention ceases, unless health care workers are committed to behavioral change. This emphasizes the important of understanding and addressing hand hygiene behavior to enhance compliance.

The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare has several hand hygiene resources available to help in this journey.

Wai Khuan, PhD, is principal consultant, Asia-Pacific & International Infection Prevention and Control at Joint Commission International. Prior to this, she worked in infection control management positions worldwide.


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