Back to basics: It's time to promote good hand hygiene

One of the best things we can do to stay healthy and prevent illness is also one of the easiest.

Good hand washing habits can mean the difference between suffering in bed from the flu this winter and leading the celebration at your local holiday events. National Handwashing Awareness Week is the first full week of December, which this year is Dec. 4-10. It’s a wonderful opportunity to educate your community on the importance of good hand washing.

  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hand washing website and print out free fact sheets, posters and other materials. Distribute them at all your events this week and be sure to include their free button to promote good hand hygiene on your agency’s website.
  • Healthcare-associated infections are important — and often avoidable — factors of morbidity and mortality among hospitalized patients. Fortunately, proper hand hygiene can improve the chances that a patient will not acquire such an infection. Download a how-to guide on improving hand hygiene among health care workers from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and volunteer to teach its content in all of your area’s skilled nursing facilities. 
  • Sponsor a hand washing station at a large local event this week, such as a community Christmas carol event or tree lighting ceremony. Portable toilets are often brought in by the event organizer, but hand washing stations usually are missing. Be sure to include signage promoting National Handwashing Awareness Week and your agency. Have a small table nearby with agency collateral materials and some festive giveaway items.
  • Sometimes, washing your hands just isn’t possible. Distribute pocket-sized hand sanitizer personalized with your agency’s name and contact information to all your referral sources. 
  • In addition to proper hand washing, a simple annual flu shot plays a huge role in helping to keep from contracting the seasonal illness. Visit the senior center and church groups in your area and teach a class on cold and flu prevention, including getting vaccinated against the flu.