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 Special Report

Lessons in hand hygiene

The spread of infectious diseases and viruses can have serious consequences for schools and colleges - in terms of their impact on individual students and staff, andmore widely for educational institutions as a whole. Suzanne De Maine, European marketing manager for GOJO Europe, explains why encouraging healthy hand hygiene behaviour needs to play a constant role in the curriculum, as pupils return to school to start a new academic year.

Children and young people are extremely susceptible to picking up communicable diseases and viruses, as any parent or carer will attest. A number of risk factors can contribute to this, but the fact that they come into reg- ular close contact with each other in schools, colleges and other seats of learning is high on the list when compiling reasons for the spread of infections in these age groups. The Health Protection

Agency (HPA), which is now part of Public Health Eng- land, cites hand washing as amajor influence in attain- ing good hygiene practice in its ‘Guidance on Infection Control in Schools and Other Childcare Settings’. It says: ‘Hand washing is one of themost important ways of controlling the spread of infections, especially those that cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and respiratory disease. The recommended method is the use of soap, warmwater and paper tow- els. Always wash hands after using the toilet, before eating or handling food, and after handling animals.’ The importance of hand

washing was alsomen- tioned in the Public Inquiry into the September 2005 outbreak of E.coli 0157 in SouthWales, chaired by Professor Hugh Pennington. In the summary of its find- ings, published inMarch 2009, it was reported that a total of 157 cases were identified.Most of the cases were children, in 44 schools across four local authority areas. In its section on

schools and hygiene, the summary stated that: ‘Fortu- nately, the problems with toi- let and hand washing facilities do not appear to have caused or contributed to the outbreak. However, the provision of adequate fa- cilities in schools is a basic requirement, and it takes on a particular importance in terms of preventing the spread of an infection.’ Educating young people

about healthy hand hygiene behaviour, and providing themwith the right products tomake the activity a pleas- ure and not a chore, is there- fore crucial in educational settings. Investing in this area bringsmany benefits including: • Better service delivery -

measures to help reduce the risk of virus outbreaksmean disruption to lesson plans and examtimetables can be kept to aminimum. • Improved academic suc-

cess - less pupils, or staff, absenteeismmeans in- creased chances for learning and knowledge development, making for higher grades, better examresults,more favourable Ofsted reports, and higher placings in school ‘league tables’. • Cost savings - staff can

suffer fromvirus outbreaks just asmuch as pupils and students. Less staff absen- teeismreduces the need to bring in supply teachers, keeping salary costs down. • Happier parents - if chil-

dren are ill this can cause problems for parents, who may have to take time off work to care for them. This has a knock-on effect for the

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local economy, so keeping pupils healthy will go some way to alleviating this issue. Reinforcing the importance

of healthy hand hygiene be- haviour can take place throughout schools and col-

leges, but it is a perfect sub- ject to tackle as part of PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) lessons. Accord- ing to the PSHE Association: ‘PSHE education equips chil- dren and young people with knowledge, understanding, attitudes and practical skills to live healthy, safe, produc- tive, fulfilled, capable and re- sponsible lives.’ Global Handwashing Day is

a widely-recognised initia- tive, and its website offers school resources including activities, games and posters ‘to communicate with chil- dren about the importance of personal hygiene, andmoti-

vate themto share hand washing promotionmes- sages with their friends and families’. In its lesson plan for primary pupils,Wateraid - whosemission is to over- come poverty by enabling the world’s poorest people to gain access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene edu- cation - poses the question, why is hand washing impor- tant? The lesson plan aims to help children understand whymaintaining personal hygiene is important, and that while bacteria and viruses can affect health, simple, safe routines can reduce their spread. Parents and teachers can

also visit the GOJO website - kingdom/markets/educa- tion - where there is an array of information on the importance of championing a healthier learning envi- ronment. This gives access to a range of educational re- sources including colouring sheets, word searches and crosswords, to helpmake learning about hand hy- giene fun. The importance of en-

couraging andmaintaining good hand hygiene has never beenmore important for schools and colleges. The spread of infections or virus outbreaks can have far-reaching consequences for these settings, causing distress and discomfort for the individual pupils and staff affected, and the wider community. By investing in the best

hand hygiene solutions, ed- ucational establishments can help improve the well- being of its pupils, students and employees - improving morale and helping young people achievemore.

Formore information on GOJO’s hand hygiene solutions call 01908 588444, email or visit united-kingdom.

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