Education Influences Hand Hygiene Habits

Researchers show that public education campaigns regarding hand hygiene are effective in altering individual hand hygiene habits during the peak periods of influenza transmission.

Jae-Hyun Park, in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at Sungkyunkwan University College of Medicine in Suwon, Korea, and colleagues performed a study to better assess the perceptions, motivating factors and behaviors associated with the use of handwashing to prevent H1N1 influenza transmission during the peak pandemic period in Korea.

The researchers report in BMC Infectious Diseases that a cross-sectional survey questionnaire was completed by 942 students at a university campus in Suwon, Korea, Dec. 1-8, 2009. The survey included questions regarding individual perceptions, motivating factors and behaviors associated with handwashing for the prevention of H1N1 influenza transmission.

Compared to one year prior, 30.3 percent of participants reported increasing their handwashing frequency. Female students were more likely to practice more frequent handwashing; women also perceived the effectiveness of handwashing to be lower, and illness severity and personal susceptibility to H1N1 infection to be higher. Study participants who were female (OR: 1.79-3.90) who perceived of handwashing to be effective (OR: 1.34-12.15) and illness severity to be greater (OR: 1.00-3.12) washed their hands more frequently.

The researchers concluded that Korean students increased their frequency of hand hygiene practices during the pandemic, with significant gender differences existing in the attitudes and behaviors related to the use of hand hygiene as a means of disease prevention. Here, the factors that affected handwashing behavior were similar to those identified at the beginning of the H1N1 or SARS pandemics, suggesting that public education campaigns regarding hand hygiene are effective in altering individual hand hygiene habits during the peak periods of influenza transmission.

Reference: Park JH, Cheong HK, Son DY, Kim SU and Ha CM. Perceptions and behaviors related to hand hygiene for the prevention of H1N1 influenza transmission among Korean university students during the peak pandemic period. BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:222doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-222

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