The Importance of Hand Hygiene

As part of a major global effort to improve hand hygiene in health care, led by WHO to support health-care workers, the SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands annual global campaign was launched in 2009 and is a natural extension of the WHO First Global Patient Safety Challenge: Clean Care is Safer Care work.

The Campaign aims to galvanise action at the point of care to demonstrate that hand hygiene is the entrance door for reducing health care associated infection and patient safety. It also aims to demonstrate the world's commitment to this priority area of health care.

Hand hygiene and Infection Prevention and Control more generally are key weapons in the fight against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

WHO’S 5 MAY 2017 Campaign Slogan, “Fight Antibiotic Resistance - It's In Your Hands” demonstrates the unity between AMR and infection efforts.

What is Hand Hygiene?

Effective Hand Hygiene is the single most important strategy in preventing health care associated infections.

Hand Hygiene
  • Is a general term referring to any action of hand cleansing. 
  • Includes:
           - Washing hands with the use of a water and soap or a soap solution, either non-                       antimicrobial or antimicrobial 
              OR

         - Applying a waterless antimicrobial hand rub to the surface of the hands (e.g. alcohol-             based hand rub). 
  • When performed correctly, hand hygiene results in a reduction of microorganisms on hands. 
Hand hygiene practices have been universally poor among health care workers.
Why:
  • Heavy workloads - the busier you are the less likely you are to wash your hands
  • Time consuming - there just isn't enough time to wash your hands as often as you need to if using the traditional Hand Hygiene techniques.
  • Hands don't appear dirty - Bugs are there even if you can't see them.
  • Problems with skin irritation - frequent washing with soap and water removes skin lipids, and in some health care workers causes dryness, skin irritation and damaged skin.
  • Sinks poorly located - if it's hard to get to a sink you are less likely to use it.
Everyone can play their part and here’s how:
  • health workers - clean your hands at the right times.
  • chief executive officers and managers of health facilities - support hand hygiene campaigning and IPC programmes to protect patients from antibiotic resistant infections.
  • policy makers - stop AMR spread by demonstrating national support for and commitment to infection prevention. 
Poor hand hygiene leads to germ transmissionincluding of those germs resistant to antibiotics. This can put patients at risk of potentially fatal health care associated infections (HAI).
No one should catch an infection while receiving healthcare, yet, millions of people are affected every year. This is avoidable.

Infection prevention and care is a practical, evidence based approach which prevents patients and health workers from being harmed and ensures quality healthcare.
It involves practicing WHO hand hygiene recommendations, having clean and hygienic environment, monitoring infections and having action plans to reduce their frequency, never re-using needles and syringes, using antibiotics but only when truly needed, to reduce the risk of resistance.
The Solution

Most health care-associated infections are preventable through good hand hygiene – cleaning hands at the right times and in the right way. The WHO Guidelines on hand hygiene in health care support hand hygiene promotion and improvement in health-care facilities worldwide and are complemented by the WHO Multimodal hand hygiene improvement strategy, the Guide to implementation, and implementation toolkit, which contain many ready-to-use practical tools. These tools have been field-tested and have yielded new, interesting data on hand hygiene practices and success factors for improvement.


Indications for Hand Hygiene
Use an an alcohol based hand rub for all clinical situations where hands are visibly clean.
Wash with soap and water when visibly dirty or contaminated with proteinaceous material, or visibly soiled with blood or other body fluids, or if exposure to potential spore forming organisms is strongly suspected or proven, or after using the bathroom.
Show your commitment and register your organisation with WHO to show you support for Hand Hygiene Sign up Now!
The WHO have developed posters on How to Hand Rub and How to Handwash.  Click on either poster to view full size version
.






 'Based on the 'How to Handwash', URL: http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/How_To_HandWash_Poster.pdf ©
 World Health Organization 2009. All rights reserved., and  the 'How to Handrub', URL: http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/How_To_HandRub_Poster.pdf © World Health Organization 2009. All rights reserved.'

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