Hand washing with soap

Why is handwashing with soap important?

The importance of hand washing with soap was demonstrated in a 2003 systematic review on hand washing and diarrhoea, in which Curtis and Cairncross found that community hand washing interventions reduced the risk of contracting diarrhoea by 47%. Handwashing with soap is also considered to be one of the most cost‐effective ways  of reducing the global burden of disease  (Bank, W. 2006). Despite the potential for hand hygiene interventions to save millions of lives worldwide, behaviour change is not easy. The team at Hygiene Central are working to provide evidence of what really works to improve hand washing behavior through exploratory reserach and clinical trials in in a range of lower income and middle income settings.

Our key reserach and contributions in this area to date:

The Hygiene Centre is known for its research on how to change and sustain hygiene behaviour related to hand washing. Researchers in the Centre have become expert in developing and testing ways in which hand washing can be successfully promoted on a large scale. The Hygiene Centre is also currently testing the hypothesis that the transmission of acute respiratory infections is also prevented by frequent hand washing.

The Global Public-Private Partnership to Promote Hand washing With Soap

Staff from the Hygiene Centre were actively involved in setting up the Global Public-Private Partnership to Promote Hand washing With Soap and continue to contribute to provide advice and management for the group. The partnership brings together the skills and resources of the soap industry, national governments, development organisations and the academic world. The non-branded soap and hand washing promotion programmes bring substantial health benefits, particularly to children under 5 years, while satisfying the desire of soap manufacturers to improve their market penetration.

The success of the partnership is already evident. Preliminary results from the Ghana initiative show increases of 13% and 41% in hand washing with soap after defecation and before eating, respectively. The advert below was developed as part of this initiative and won the Best Television Advert of the Year in Ghana.[iframe width=”380″ height=”280″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/w2qRcMTstzc?list=UU9erkJp3En2e2prL0_5U5qQ” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

Developing tools for child-focused hygiene promotion in school

School-age children can be extremely receptive to the  promotion of good habits such as tooth-brushing or hand-washing  and can develop positive attitudes towards the use of  sanitary facilities. These habits and attitudes have positive health outcomes that continue throughout adult life. For this reason, Hygiene Centre staff members are actively involved in studying the psychology of habit formation, particularly in the context of routine behaviours.

To better understand the unique determinants of children’s behaviour, the Hygiene Centre has been working for some years now on developing a set of tools which are tailored to effective communication with, and information elicitation from, children, especially in developing countries.

schoolsThe first ‘generation’ of these tools were the brain-child of Myriam Sidibe, a DrPH student in the Hygiene Centre, who studied the hygiene behaviour of school-children in Senegal. Since then, the tools have been refined through use in national surveys conducted in other sub-Saharan African countries, and more recently in Asia.


The Hygiene Centre ‘Tools for Schools’ Toolkit is freely availble to anyone who wishes to use it and is available here.

Choose Soap

The Hygiene Centre and SHARE collaborated on the development of this hand washing capaign toolkit. The resources are designed to help local implementers promote hand-washing with soap in households in low income settings. The campaign concept draws on ideas and best practices from different fields including hygiene and health promotion, behavioural sciences and marketing. All the resources are provided free to who ever wishes to use them. You can watch the campaign film below or go to the website for access to the full set of tools and activities.
[iframe width=”380″ height=”280″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/xHP0f6hD3-Y?list=UU9erkJp3En2e2prL0_5U5qQ” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

A few things we are currently working on:

The SuperAmma Campaign
This project was the culmination of years of behavioral science research to inculcate the habit of handwashing with soap. This communication campaign is based on the Evo-Eco theory of behavior change. The website linked to here includes the approach and the materials that worked successfully in Southern India. Or watch the campaign video below to get an idea about how the intervention was delivered.

[vimeo 76933851 w=300&h=280]

Full list of publications related to hand washing:



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