Social and Cultural Factors Impact Hygiene in Healthcare Facilities

Pascale Hancart-Petitet, of the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge in Phnom Penh Cambodia, and colleagues, say that the frequency of bloodborne pathogen-related healthcare-associated infections is thought to be high in developing Southeast Asian countries but that the underlying social-cultural logics contributing to the risks of transmission are rarely studied. The researchers provide some insights on the social and cultural factors that shape hygiene practices in Cambodian healthcare settings in BMC Public Health.

Hancart-Petitet, et al. conducted qualitative surveys in various public and private health facilities in Phnom Penh and in provinces. They observed and interviewed 319 participants, healthcare workers and patients, regarding hygiene practices and social relationships among the healthcare staff and with patients. They also examined the local perceptions of hygiene, their impact on the relationships between the healthcare staff and patients, and perceptions of transmission risks. Data collection stem from face to face semi-structured and open-ended interviews and focus group discussions with various healthcare staffs (i.e., environmental services staff, known as "cleaners," nurses, midwives and medical doctors) and with patients who attended the study health facilities.

The researchers report that overall responses and observations indicated that hygiene practices were burdened by the lack of adequate materials and equipment. In addition, many other factors were identified to influence and distort hygiene practices which include informal and formal social rapports in hospitals, and major infection control roles played by the cleaners in absence of professional acknowledgment. Moreover, hygiene practices are commonly seen as an unessential matter to be devoted to low-ranking staff.

Reference: Hancart-Petitet P, Dumas C, Faurand-Tournaire AL, Desclaux A and Vong S. Social and cultural dimensions of hygiene in Cambodian health care facilities. BMC Public Health 2011, 11:83doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-83.