Didier Pittet, MD, CBE: The Biggest Challenges Facing Environmental Hygiene Today

Infection Control Today, Volume 26, Issue 10

Didier Pittet, MD, MS, CBE, a renowned epidemiologist, joins ICT® ahead of the upcoming Clean Hospitals Day Conference to discuss the biggest challenges that environmental hygiene personnel face.

Environmental hygiene is all-too-often overlooked and underappreciated in the infection prevention and control field. The personnel are critical to protecting patients and staff against dangerous pathogens. Didier Pittet, MD, MS, CBE, the hospital epidemiologist and director of the Infection Control Programme & World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre on Infection Prevention and Control and Antimicrobial Resistance, University of Geneva Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine, wants to highlight how important environmental hygiene is and spread the message worldwide.

Pittet has an extensive list of honors and credits for his life-long work in epidemiology, environmental hygiene, and infection prevention. Most noteworthy for this interview, he is credited with revolutionizing patient care processes in hospitals by replacing hand washing with soap and water with the systematic use of alcohol-based handrubs and spreading this change in practice to health care centers around the world. This is called the “Clean Hands Initiative.”

Now Pittet has shifted his focus to another integral aspect of infection prevention in hospitals, called the “Clean Hospital Initiative.” Ahead of the upcoming Clean Hospitals Day Conference, Pittet joins Infection Control Today®(ICT®) to discuss the biggest challenges facing environmental hygiene personnel.

The Clean Hospitals Day Conference will be held October 20, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland, where the attendees and presenters will tackle the challenge of increasing the “global visibility and recognition of the importance of health care environmental hygiene, provide stronger focus and guidance, and encourage the creation of global standards for environmental hygiene,” as noted on the Clean Hospital’s website.

However, only talking about environmental hygiene to other experts about the challenges is not enough, Pittet told ICT®. “We need to sensitize [hospitals] to the importance of health care environmental hygiene. There are too many hospitals around the world that I have visited, where it's just left like this: either it's a private company will [do the cleaning], and sometimes that [should be] a professional’s work. Cleaning a hospital is not cleaning a hotel [because] patients are coming to the hospitals. Environmental protection in a hotel or at home has nothing to do with environmental protection in a hospital or in a long-term care facility, even where many people are living today. So, this is an important problem. And we want to address it with my friends and colleagues from around the world [at the conference]. Again, in a public private/partnership and academic action that we all want to carry over.”