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Changing Seasons Changing Habits

Changing Seasons, Changing Habits

Hanna Woodburn

10/15/2015


By Hanna Woodburn


Secretariat Director, Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing

It’s the middle of October. School routines are well established, the leaves are changing, and football is on television. For many of us, autumn evokes thoughts of time with families, sharing food, and enjoying colder weather. But, oftentimes a damper is put on these activities due to illness, such as the common cold or the flu. We know what steps we can take to prevent illness, such as practicing good hand hygiene, which includes handwashing with soap and water and hand sanitizing with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, at key moments where we are at greater risk for transferring illness-causing germs into our bodies or to others. But oftentimes, we might not change our behavior to match our knowledge.

This is a challenge globally, too. No matter where you live, good hand hygiene must be practiced regularly to be effective. It is for this reason that Global Handwashing Day is celebrated annually on October 15. Founded by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, Global Handwashing Day is designed to foster a global and local culture of handwashing; shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing globally; and raise awareness about the benefits of good hand hygiene. To many, handwashing may not seem like something worth celebrating. So what do the hundreds of millions of people who commemorate Global Handwashing Day each year know that you don’t? That hand hygiene can have on a major impact on health, with ripple effects on education, equity and economic development.

Take education, for instance. Children miss 272 million school days annually due to diarrhea.1 When children aren’t in school they can’t learn. Parents or caregivers might need to miss work to care for them. They might have increased healthcare costs. These negative outcomes can be avoided entirely by preventing illness in the first place, and practicing hand hygiene at critical times, such as after going to the bathroom or before eating, can do just that. In fact, handwashing can reduce the risk of diarrheal disease by nearly half.

Global Handwashing Day won’t make good hand hygiene a habit, but it can bring this important behavior to the forefront, spark conversations about it, and motivate policymakers and leaders to take action to foster a culture of hygiene. So, this Global Handwashing Day will you join us and raise a hand for hygiene?

Teach your children about good hand hygiene and share messages about the importance of handwashing on social media using #GlobalHandwashingDay. Additional resources are available at http://cootiescatcher.com/. And, don’t forget to wash your hands!     

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