Panel Discussion – a joint event
October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases. The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing initiated the first Global Handwashing Day on October 15, 2008. Since then, it has been endorsed and commemorated by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), private companies, and individuals around the globe.
Every year, 1.7 million children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhoea and pneumonia. Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. This simple behaviour can save lives, cutting deaths from diarrhoea by almost one-half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter. Handwashing with soap can make a significant contribution to fulfilling the targets within the Global Goals around child survival, nutrition, gender, equity, and education.
Handwashing with soap requires behaviour change, and changing people’s behaviour is a complex undertaking. Although there have been many developments in the field of behavioural science to inform work on promoting hand washing, much remains to be explored, learned and tackled. It is now broadly acknowledged that raising awareness of the importance of hand washing is not sufficient on its own to change and sustain behaviour. Making hand washing part of daily routines and sustaining this behaviour requires innovation, creativity and novel approaches. It has to be seen as a simple, socially-acceptable action performed within an environment that is conducive to it.
Despite hand washing with soap being a highly cost effective public health intervention that can save millions of life each year, the question of how to deliver successful behaviour change looms large and how to monitor its effectiveness remains unanswered. Global Handwashing Day offers an opportunity to debate some of those unanswered questions and establish consensus among key sector actors.
WaterAid, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the SHARE Consortium would like to use Global Handwashing Day 2015 as an opportunity to conduct a panel discussion. The purpose of this discussion is to identify common actions for Government, researchers, practitioners, private sector actors and donors on addressing the need for improving hand washing with soap.