Hand Hygiene Messages Should Provoke Emotive Response for Greater Effectiveness

Researchers Sarah Wilson of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and Casey Jacob and Douglas Powell of Kansas State University, suggest that messages aimed at improving hand hygiene compliance should provoke a significant level of human emotion such as disgust or discomfort in order to be effective.

The researchers acknowledge the low levels of compliance with handwashing in hospitals and other settings such as food service and that despite ongoing training and education efforts, individuals are not compelled to observe proper hand sanitation practices. Wilson and colleagues conducted a literature review to identify alternative interventions for triggering change in hand hygiene behavior. The researchers say that of those interventions, those that employ social pressures have demonstrated varying influence on an individual's behavior, while interventions that focus on organizational culture have demonstrated positive results. They add, however, that recent research indicates that handwashing is a ritualized behavior mainly performed for self-protection, therefore interventions that provoke emotive sensations or use social marketing may be the most effective.

Reference: Wilson S, Jacob CJ and Powell D. Behavior-change interventions to improve hand-hygiene practice: a review of alternatives to education. Critical Public Health. Vol. 21, Issue 1. March 2011. Pages 119-127.