Celebrating Global Handwashing Day
Global Handwashing Day, observed across the world on October 15, is a day dedicated to educating the public about proper handwashing as a simple way to reduce the spread of disease. It is as relevant this year as it has ever been.
A January 2021 study found that Americans are already losing steam when it comes to the healthy habit. In April 2020—a month after COVID-19 shutdown began—78% of surveyed Americans reported washing their hands at least six times a day. Just nine months later, that number dropped to 57%.
Global handwashing day: a necessary reminder
Established in 2008, Global Handwashing Day was founded by agencies that include the CDC, Proctor & Gamble, UNICEF, and the World Bank Water & Sanitation Program.
The 2021 theme is “Our Future is at Hand—Let’s Move Forward Together.” During a time in history when the pandemic has created uncertainties about the future, handwashing is one variable that individuals can control to positively impact their health.
A handwashing how-to may feel redundant, but a study from Michigan State University observed almost 4,000 people in public restrooms, and found that after using the bathroom, only 5% of people washed their hands long enough to kill infection-causing bacteria. On average, only 67% used soap. 10% didn’t wash their hands at all.
Differences in the commitment to clean hands exist between different groups as well. While the general public is concerned about germs and contracting COVID-19, 70% of office employees follow a stringent handwashing routine, compared to just 59% of the general population.
Employers can help support concerned staff by making sure bathrooms are fully equipped with high-quality products to support personal hygiene, and also need access to products that protect their hands from over-drying.
Correct handwashing procedures
The CDC recommends five simple steps to properly wash your hands:
- Wet your hands and apply soap
- Lather your hands including the backs, in between fingers, and under fingernails
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse your hands well
- Dry your hands
Experts suggest using a familiar tune to hold yourself accountable for a 20-second scrub. Sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star or hum Happy Birthday twice. If you tire of those melodies, you can choose from a myriad of other song suggestions.
Spreading awareness instead of germs
Global Handwashing Day is an opportunity to promote dialogue about the need for proper handwashing. Whether you choose to share information through conversations or a social media post, you can make sure others are educated on keeping their hands clean.