October 15th is recognised as Global Handwashing Day but we all agree now that for handwashing to be effective its must be a habit that we practice all the time especially after using the toilet, before contact with food or snacks, after handshakes, before sleeping and in several other instances.
The theme for 2016 is “Make Handwashing a Habit” and we should all aim at washing our hands with soap and water and encouraging people to do same every day of the year for the rest of our lives. Proper and consistent handwashing is one of the most cost effective tools for any group of people to develop/progress rapidly.
“Handwashing with soap is an easy, effective, and affordable do-it-yourself (DIY) protection that prevents infections and saves lives.” We are all amazed by the marked reduction in cases of diarrhoea and pneumonia by such a simple “habit” and the benefits of handwashing become even more glaring when we are aware that about 1.7million children less than five years of age die from complications of diarrhoea and pneumonia. Even the much-feared Ebola virus can have its spread curtailed by proper handwashing.
“Handwashing with soap and water impacts not just HEALTH and NUTRITION, but also EDUCATION, ECONOMICS and EQUITY. We like to call this the HN3E argument.” The five listed areas are key to the development of any group of people and we can achieve so much just by making handwashing a habit.
Nutrition – poor nutrition does not only cause physical stunting, in addition we do not achieve our destined brain power. Eventually diarrhoea and undernutrition can become a vicious cycle.
Health – many infections start from contaminated hands and handwashing with soap and water can to a large extent prevent many cases of diarrhoea, pneumonia, skin and eye infections, intestinal worms and Ebola.
Economic Impact – handwashing is one of the most cost-effective investments in public health. Just comparing the cost of immunization to that of handwashing will give you a headache. We need to continue with immunization but handwashing is without doubt crucial to our survival and development.
Education – is it surprising that handwashing with soap and water and educational achievement are closely linked? Imagine the number of school days lost because of diarrhoeal diseases alone. Handwashing once again comes to the fore when girls need to hygienically manage their menstruation and still stay in school.
Equity – what happens when a group of people in poorer and less “educated” households continue to skip handwashing while their counterparts in more affluent societies and with access to information on handwashing continue to wash? The deaths continue to increase among the deprived ones, lost days at school are still higher and the socio-economic gap stays the same or even widens.
Make a pledge today to make handwashing a habit wherever you are and spread the news to at least one household that has little access to information on handwashing.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/ St Andrews Clinic
Dr Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.
Thought for the week – “Given the impact of handwashing on the health, nutrition, education, and equity of the population, lack of investment in handwashing has important economic implications at the population level.”
All information including quotes from THE GLOBAL PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP FOR HANDWASHING.