World Hand Hygiene Day


The World Hand Hygiene Day, 5 May 2022, approaches. This campaign hopes to recognise that people of all levels should work together to influence the culture on clean hands knowledge and behaviour, and to meet the common goal of safety and quality in the healthcare industry.

Unite for safety: clean your hands

This year's World Hand Hygiene Day (WHHD) focuses on developing and improving the understanding and relationship between health and hand-hygiene. Each year the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights the importance of hand hygiene, with this year's aim being to inspire a greater understanding, people from all levels should believe in the importance of hand hygiene and infection prevention and control (IPC) to save lives.

It’s in your hands: understanding the importance of hand hygiene together

The COVID-19 pandemic left a mark like never before, highlighting the importance of hand hygiene and bringing to light real concerns regarding healthcare practices and public knowledge on how important hand hygiene can be. From the beginning, the WHO have continually championed the philosophy ‘Save Lives: Clean Your Hands’, driving an on-going engagement that thorough cleaning can and will save lives. According to the WHO, approximately 70% of health care workers do not routinely practise hand hygiene, with health workers reporting misunderstandings about the relevance and importance of hand hygiene in everyday clinical practice. Moreover, evidence suggests that as little as 50% of surgical teams comply with hand hygiene best practice throughout a surgical patient’s hospital stay. These statistics are worrying at best and developed a clear correlation between infection rates and basic hand hygiene. The Gloves are Off! campaign, for example, has already shown statistical data displaying the effects that basic hand hygiene has in warding off infection.  

Fortunately, with the annual campaigns and aftermath of the pandemic accentuating the need to acknowledge the importance of hand hygiene, there has begun an all important progression in the fight against infection. As a call to arms, the healthcare industry has seen a drastic improvement in infection prevention and control (IPC), however, it is key that healthcare workers of all levels, as well as the people who access these care facilities, stay vigilant and unite by ensuring hand cleanliness.

The right time time clean 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explore the cause behind the spread of germs and bacteria, creating a simple guide for everyone to follow, regardless of position or occupation. By simply washing your hands, you can keep healthy and prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections from one person to the next. The key times to wash are during the point at which you are most likely to spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before and after eating food.
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is contagious (sick with vomiting or diarrhoea).
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.
  • After using the toilet.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste.
  • After touching waste. 

The guidance for key times to wash your hands can be found on the official CDC’s website here.

Patient help: how the patient can encourage hand hygiene

The healthcare industry has been under the spotlight in recent years regarding IPC concerns, however,  the WHO have released a ‘tips for the patient’ response to further promote hand hygiene and to demonstrate how we can all help.

It comes as no surprise that doctors and nurses care for many sick people each day and by providing the best care this can often result in being in contact with a multitude of patients and their surroundings. While providing this much-needed care, they risk spreading germs if they do not clean their hands. 

Hand hygiene is the simplest, most effective way to reduce the chance of catching infections, but working in a busy and high pressure environment can all too often lead to this simple act being forgotten or even inconsequential, in the moment. However, you can help. 

There are four main things you and/or your family can do:

  1. Ask if an initiative involving patients or a patient participation programme exists. If yes, ask whether there is a leaflet or information sheet about it and express your interest in participating. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask about hand hygiene practices in the facility. While healthcare workers make every possible effort to provide you with the best care, you have the right to ask for information and to check if best practices are in place. This can significantly help improve health-care delivery. 
  3. Observe if alcohol-based hand rub dispensers, as well as sinks, soap and towels are available in your room or if healthcare workers carry pocket bottles. If not, gently ask why hand hygiene products are not available and possibly ask for a small bottle of alcohol-based hand rub product to keep by your bed.
  4. If hand hygiene products are available, start by thanking your doctor, nurse, or other healthcare worker when you see them cleaning their hand before touching you or any critical site.

The relationship between the healthcare worker and patient should unify the importance of hand hygiene and encourage everyone to follow in upholding the best possible health. 

Unite, talk and work together on hand hygiene for high quality safer care everywhere.

Further information

Understanding the importance of hand hygiene can save lives. find out more information here to help encourage a healthy future:

World Health Organisation 

WHO question and answers

CDC key times to wash hands

Join the campaign

The gloves are off campaign