Why Handwashing Matters Beyond COVID-19

Why Handwashing Matters Beyond COVID-19

Introduction: The importance of handwashing beyond COVID-19 protection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the number one way to stop deadly diseases like COVID-19 from spreading is to wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Handwashing is especially important after using the bathroom, when preparing food, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

Before the pandemic hit, researchers in London estimated that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented. If that weren’t reason enough to prioritize hand washing, there are countless public health benefits that remind us why a good hand hygiene practice should stick even after the pandemic is over. Hand IQ is the tool to help you hardwire the habit.

From healthcare-acquired infections to foodborne illnesses, handwashing is our best first defense

Thanks to Dr. Fauci, we are all hyper aware of the importance of handwashing as one of the best first lines of defense against COVID-19. Beyond COVID-19, there are millions of bacteria and bugs that handwashing protects us against.

Did you know nearly 1.7 million hospitalized patients in the United States suffer from healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) each year while being treated for other issues and, of those, almost 100,000 die from them? Nearly 70% of HAIs can be attributed to poor hand hygiene, which is why hospitals put significant resources into handwashing training and compliance. Several studies suggest that simple infection-control procedures such as cleaning hands with an alcohol-based hand rub can help prevent HAIs and save lives, reduce morbidity, and minimize healthcare costs.  

Outside of hospitals, handwashing with soap and water for 20 seconds can prevent 1 in 3 people from getting sick with diarrhea and 1 in 5 people from getting a respiratory illness. These are staggering statistics when you take into consideration that roughly 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children around the world. Simple handwashing education in the community alone can reduce absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by up to 57%.

In the food services industry, the spread of germs from the hands of food workers to food is the most common cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants. America's food industry has a $55.5 billion food safety problem. Each year, 48 million Americans become sick from foodborne illnesses, including norovirus, E.coli, Hepatitis A, Staph, salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria. The cost of a single foodborne illness outbreak at a fast-casual establishment can cost up to $2.1 million. Almost 90% of foodborne illnesses in restaurants could be prevented with proper handwashing.

Beyond the aforementioned, it is no coincidence that the precautions we are taking to protect ourselves from COVID-19 – namely handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks – have nearly wiped out the seasonal flu. This upside benefit is one of the few silver linings we’ve seen from the pandemic, and yet another reason we should continue to keep handwashing top of mind after it’s over.

Conclusion: signal your commitment to social responsibility with Hand IQ

Handwashing is considered one of the most life-saving inventions in the history of humankind, contributing to an average lifespan which now hovers around 80 years in countries like the UK, rather than 40 or so as was the case in 1850, when hand washing was first popularized. And yet, while 92% of Americans say they believe it's important to wash their hands after using a public restroom, only 66% say they actually do so, and nearly 70% admit to not using soap. 

So what can we do as socially responsible individuals and businesses to improve these numbers and make progress in our fight against hand-to-hand disease spread? Invest in technology like Hand IQ that nudges you to prioritize handwashing while providing handwashing compliance data to drive performance improvement. Learn more about how Hand IQ works.

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