Americas Clean Hands Report Card Reveals that Students Barely Pass; Parents Average Just a C and School Nurses/Health Professionals are at the Head of the Class

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Students are receiving less-than-stellar grades on basic hand hygiene. Parents should hit the books too. School nurses and health professionals come out on top. And teachers arent far behind. These grades on hand hygiene come from the third Clean Hands Report Card issued by the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).

The overall grade of C shows that all of us can do better when it comes to proper hand hygiene practices (though it is a slight improvement from the overall C- given on the 2006 Report Card).

School nurses/health professionals surveyed by SDA received pretty good marks averaging a B+.   Teachers notched a B-.   Parents earned a C, but moms (B-) were much better than dads (D+).

Students, however, really need to do their homework: they received a grade of D.  

The 2007 Report Card is based on an omnibus telephone survey of parents of school-age children and on-site surveys at conferences attended by teachers, school nurses/health professionals and students.

The survey questioned respondents hand hygiene behavior and knowledge of the importance of regularly cleaning ones hands throughout the day.

With cold and flu season coming up, good hand hygiene is vital to infection control.  Cleaning our hands is especially critical at school and at work, where germs lurk in every corner and in every handshake, said Nancy Bock, SDAs vice president of education.  

This years Most Likely To Succeed will be the person who practices a simple three-step process:  Wet, lather and rinse.  

The SDA offers the following refresher course for effective handwashing:

1. Wet hands with warm running water prior to reaching for the soap, either in bar or liquid form.

2. Rub hands together to make a lather. Do this away from running water, so the lather isnt washed away.

3.Wash the front and back of your hands, between your fingers and under the nails.  Continue washing for at least 15-20 seconds.

4. Rinse hands well under warm running water.

5. Dry hands thoroughly.

6.  Hand sanitizers or hand wipes are useful alternatives if soap and water are not available (for example, when traveling in the car or taxi on the way to a business meeting, before eating a meal or snack on the plane, or in the school cafeteria, etc.).

Report Card Summary

The following brief summary offers a review of how the different groups fared on the Clean Hands Report Card:

School Nurses/Health Professionals: Overall Grade: B+

Not surprisingly, school nurses/health professionals report having the most knowledge about the benefits of hand hygiene and put it into practice.  Nearly every single respondent knows that cleaning hands regularly is the number one way to prevent colds and flu.  Further, 64 percent washed their hands more than 10 times each day.  A near-perfect amount (97 percent) report always washing hands after going to the bathroom, while a majority report always or frequently washing hands before eating lunch and after coughing and sneezing.  But 44 percent lather their hands with soap for less than the recommended 15-20 seconds.

Teachers: Overall Grade: B-

Like school nurses and health professionals, teachers seem to understand the importance of clean hands in preventing colds and flu (98 percent).  Yet they do not always put this knowledge into practice, with only passable marks on always washing hands at three key touch points (after bathroom use, before lunch and after coughing or sneezing).  

Parents: Overall Grade: C

The very mixed responses provided by parents show how much education is needed coming into cold and flu season.  A full 50 percent fail to note the number one way to prevent colds and flu (clean hands regularly) and almost one-third (31 percent) seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.  Yet at the same time, most parents always wash their hands after going to the bathroom (76 percent) and before eating lunch (93 percent) and almost one-third (32 percent) do say that they lather their hands for more than 20 seconds each time the highest percentage of any of the groups surveyed.  

But mothers are better than fathers when it comes to hand hygiene.   Dads are significantly more likely than moms to report they never wash their hands after they cough or sneeze (17 percent vs. 3 percent), while moms are more likely to report that they always do (38 percent vs. 21 percent).  Moms are also more likely than dads to report that they always wash their hands after going to the bathroom (97 percent vs. 89 percent).

Students: Overall Grade: D

Of all the groups studied, students demonstrate an immediate need for across-the-board education about clean hands.  Handwashing simply is not a priority for this group:  a full one-fifth (22 percent) do not wash their hands every time they use the bathroom; 31 percent seldom or never wash their hands before eating lunch and more than two-thirds (41 percent) seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.  

The 2007 Clean Hands Report CardSM was based on the following surveys:

· An omnibus telephone survey of 664 parents/guardians (311 male and 353 female) of children in grades K-12. The independent consumer research study was conducted July 26 August 5, 2007 on behalf of SDA, by International Communications Research (ICR).  The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percent.  

·  School nurses, health professionals, students and teachers completed surveys at a series of conferences in June and July 2007. Those conferences included the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) and the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). Of the 1,190 surveys collected, 508 self-identified as teachers, 356 as health professionals (nearly 9 out of 10 were school nurses) and 326 as students.  

Source: Soap and Detergent Association