Every year on the 15th of October we celebrate Global Handwashing Day and this year the theme is “Unite for universal hand hygiene”. Read our latest blog to find out more about Global Handwashing Day.
Take a moment to consider how many things you touch every day. Not only do you use your hands to eat, touch, hold and carry things, but they’re also the part of the body most exposed to germs in your environment. Touching an infected surface with your hands and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth can transfer germs into your body and make you sick.
Thankfully, good hand hygiene can reduce the likelihood of illnesses caused by cross-contamination. Handwashing with soap is still the most effective way to reduce germ transmission and prevent the spread of diseases that pose continuous challenges to our health and development. For instance, a study found that regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36%.
Though the benefits of handwashing are widely proven, only 62% of people always wash their hands when using a public toilet*. The impact of poor hand hygiene like this will vary around the globe, but it’s clear that we all have more work to do to raise awareness of the benefits of handwashing with soap. That’s why Initial is proud to raise awareness of Global Handwashing Day 2022 – working to improve handwashing around the world.
Why do we celebrate Global Handwashing Day?
Global Handwashing Day is a global advocacy day that provides an annual opportunity to highlight the importance of handwashing with soap for the health, safety, and protection of people everywhere. The day aims to spread the word about good hand hygiene to communities, advocates, and leaders – to help build awareness and promote the need for better hygiene habits and facilities globally.
But despite ongoing advocacy, 1.9 billion people in 2030 will still lack facilities to wash their hands at home. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s never been clearer that more needs to be done. The world is paying more attention to how germs are spread and advocates of Global Handwashing Day want to increase the momentum of change to achieve hand hygiene equality for all. This year, they’re asking everyone to #UniteforUniversalHandHygiene.
What does it mean to unite for universal hand hygiene?
There remains a global disparity in access to hand hygiene facilities. An estimated 2.3 billion people cannot wash their hands with soap and water at home, which has a direct impact on public health.
In October 2021, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) partnered to release the State of the World’s Hand Hygiene report. In this report, they assessed the world’s progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) – the call for the global community to achieve access to hygiene for all by 2030 – and suggested a pathway to achieve it. Their research also revealed global inequalities regarding hand hygiene.
Some key findings include the following.
- 670 million people have no handwashing facility at all in their homes.
- A third of health facilities lack hand hygiene resources at the point of care.
- Nearly half of schools worldwide don’t have basic hygiene services.
If progress continues at its current rate, by 2030, the world will have reached only 78% coverage of basic hygiene services and we won’t achieve SDG 6. The need for change is clear, so Global Handwashing Day 2022 focuses on the world’s collective responsibility to improve access to hand hygiene facilities.
To do this, Global Handwashing Day is encouraging communities and organisations to advocate to governments and decision-makers that there should be more funding and resources for hand hygiene. To achieve SDG 6, they believe governments, donors, researchers and businesses need to work together. Global Handwashing Day also urges individual countries to take action, suggesting that they should set ‘national coverage targets’ aligned with SDG 6 and create hygiene roadmaps that give a clear vision of how they will achieve hand hygiene for all.
Have attitudes towards hand hygiene changed?
At Initial, we recently examined the global shifts in societal behaviour towards hygiene. A total of 20,000 respondents across 20 countries took part in a survey that examined the impact of hygiene attitudes and practices on wellbeing, employee and organisational expectations, and hygiene responsibilities.
Our Global Hygiene report revealed that not only have attitudes shifted but so have expectations. 74% of people are now more** concerned that other people’s poor hand hygiene could put their health at risk, suggesting that hand hygiene is no longer viewed as an individual choice but should instead be part of a collective responsibility to keep each other safe.
Additionally, with a greater understanding of how germs spread, 71% of people are now more** fearful of germs transmission via surfaces in public spaces. So, to reduce risk, people are adopting new behaviours to protect themselves and others. It seems, for many, that these habits are long-term, with 66% of people saying that they wash their hands more** now to protect themselves from common viruses and that they intend to maintain this going forwards.
Sanitising hands is another habit that is here to stay. Regardless of whether handwashing facilities are available, 58% of respondents will use hand sanitiser in the future to protect against common viruses. In the workplace, this percentage increases, with 61% of people working in shared spaces stating that they’re now likely to sanitise their hands regularly at work to manage hygiene risks.
Noticeably, people are more aware of the risks of poor hand hygiene and want reassurance that others are taking measures to protect those around them. If businesses want to help their workforces and customers feel safe and protected, they must provide necessary facilities, promote handwashing practices and enable a culture of good hand hygiene.