Do you really know how important hand hygiene is?

Established by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2009 and celebrated annually on May 5, World Hand Hygiene Day aims to highlight the critical importance of hand hygiene worldwide, particularly in healthcare settings.

Hand hygiene is more than a preference or a luxury; it is a basic individual action that is essential for everyone, including healthcare workers, patients, and their families, in every healthcare interaction.

When done correctly and consistently, hand hygiene has the potential to save millions of lives every year. Despite its simplicity, its widespread adoption remains a challenge in many healthcare facilities worldwide. However, when integrated with other key interventions, it is the most effective way to reduce the transmission of infections.

Adequate hand hygiene, when integrated with other key interventions, is the single most effective intervention to prevent the spread of infection.

Infection prevention and control, including appropriate hand hygiene practices, are essential components of achieving universal health coverage (UHC). These evidence-based strategies significantly improve the quality of care and patient safety at all levels of the health system.

 

Key statistics from the WHO highlight the scale of the problem:

  • 50% of avoidable healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) can be prevented by good hand hygiene practices. This includes healthcare workers.
  • 1 in 4 healthcare facilities worldwide lack basic water supplies.
  • 1 in 3 health services does not provide hand hygiene facilities.
  • In low-income countries, compliance with hand hygiene best practice in the care of critically ill patients is only around 9%.
  • Even in high-income countries, compliance rarely exceeds 70%, highlighting the need for global improvement efforts.

Hand hygiene is a global challenge

Although handwashing with soap is critical in the fight against infectious diseases – let’s not forget our experience with COVID-19 – around the world, about 3 in 10 people – some 2.3 billion – do not have access to handwashing facilities with soap and water at home. The situation is worst in the least developed countries, where more than 6 in 10 people do not have access to basic hand hygiene facilities.

 

References:

Key facts and figures (who.int)

FACT SHEET: On Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF warns that 3 in 10 people do not have basic handwashing facilities at home to fight off infectious diseases

World Hand Hygiene Day (who.int)

Authors

Mónica Correia

International Marketing Manager for Life Sciences and Medical Care. Degree in Business Administration with a Masters in Marketing Management and an MBA. Over 20 years' experience in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

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