We want to ensure that hygiene is recognised as a first line of defence in reducing the spread of infections, both in the home and community. We are working to educate young people, influence infection prevention policies and raise public awareness of the importance of hygiene.
Making Hygiene Matter
The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the importance of good hygiene practices and other public health measures on the health agenda and has emphasised that hygiene remains a priority in mitigating the threat of common infections and future pandemics. Our work aims to ensure that hygiene remains relevant far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic by instilling the importance of hygiene in helping to protect from infection and thus benefiting our health and the global economy.
The importance of hygiene education is key to improving public health. It is necessary to promote behaviour change and help safeguard the health of future generations.GHC-led research has highlighted global and local behavioural barriers that prevent young children from adopting good handwashing practices. Our behaviour change programme aims to overcome these barriers through education aimed at improving hygiene behaviours within local communities.
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
AMR is one of the greatest public health threats of the 21st century, and even today, it is a leading cause of death worldwide(1)
AMR exists for every single antibiotic in clinical use, making common infections untreatable and surgical procedures potentially life-threatening due to the risk of infection. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics for common infections are the main drivers of AMR. Effective hygiene in our everyday lives offers a way to maximise protection against infection, reducing the need for antibiotics and the development of AMR.
The GHC is advocating for changes to policies and guidance to reduce the global impact of AMR:
- National AMR committees should recognise that improved hand and surface hygiene in the home and community are key mitigation tools in reducing the spread of infections and AMR. To achieve this, all global and national AMR action plans should include recommendations for improved hygiene in the wider community by 2025.
- Any new Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) advice, guidance or education for HCPs on hand and surface hygiene and its relationship with AMR should not be limited to healthcare settings; it should include recommendations for public health in the wider community.
- Medical associations and frontline HCPs should reinforce the vital role of hygiene in homes and communities to prevent infections and reduce the need for antibiotics, helping to mitigate the threat of AMR
There has never been a greater focus on the health and well-being of children, yet every day, the health of the world’s children is compromised by poor hygiene practices that increase the risk of children contracting or spreading infectious diseases. We launched the ‘Small Steps for Big Change’ campaign in 2016 to raise awareness of the risks children face and focus attention on the hygiene changes that are needed to keep children healthy.
Common infections, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, are responsible for millions of missed school days across the world and approximately 30% of childhood deaths in developing nations(2)
Regardless of geographical location, many childhood infectious diseases can be prevented or contained through good hygiene practices and education. Simple measures, such as covering the mouth when coughing, handwashing or using hand sanitiser and keeping food preparation areas hygienically clean, can have a huge impact on paediatric health and the incidence of diarrhoea, cold, flu, pneumonia and gastrointestinal infections.
GHC Expert Meetings
The GHC regularly convenes groups of global experts to discuss how to identify, address and overcome key challenges to drive the adoption of sustainable and effective hygiene practices through informing and shaping the global health agenda. Bringing together experts in hygiene, behaviour, health and pharmacoeconomics ensures the work of the GHC is driven by expert insights
In 2019, we held a meeting with experts from the fields of microbiology, AMR, hygiene and public health to review evidence that the home and other everyday life settings are important vehicles for the transmission of infections and spread of AMR. Insights from the meeting highlighted that these aspects should be given greater consideration in global and national AMR action plans.
In early 2022, we held a meeting with global hygiene, economic and behavioural experts to discuss and review the evidence that hygiene could help protect against future health threats, what lessons can be learnt from the public health messaging used during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that improved hygiene has on global and local economies.