WHO’s Global Hand Hygiene Day – a call to action to policy-makers to provide safe work environments for our healthcare heroes

Every year on May the 5th, the Hand Hygiene Day mobilizes people around the world to increase adherence to hand hygiene in health care facilities, thus protecting health care workers and patients from infections.

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective actions you can take to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus. Health workers and community members can play an important role in preventing infections by practicing regular and frequent hand sanitations and hand washing.

The life after the COVID pandemic

As the world begins to look beyond the COVID pandemic, it is important to start addressing all the other hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and antimicrobial bacteria which infection preventionists normally spend most of their time dealing with and take up most of their ressources.

A very interesting piece of paper has recently been published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. The authors conducted an informal Twitter poll, asking the infection prevention and hospital epidemiology community what percentage of their traditional infection prevention time had been diverted to COVID-19 response efforts. This query yielded 220 responses: 79.1% indicated spending >75% of their time on COVID-19 response efforts and another 13.2% indicated spending >50%–75% of their time on these efforts.

Even though the amount of data is limited, it clearly indicates how the potential resource diversion is affecting the infection prevention community. The authors conclude that in the absence of real-time HAI surveillance and unit feedback, an increase in subsequent HAIs is likely.

The authors also conclude that Health systems should consider creative ways to support and bolster their infection prevention programs during the COVID-19 pandemic – and that these efforts should include investment in technology and personnel.

The Hand Hygiene Day is more important than ever

Today, 7-10% of all patients admitted to a hospital acquire a hospital infection. No healthcare systems can effort a further increase in the frequency of HAIs both from an economic and ethical perspective.

Therefore, WHO’s Global Hand Hygiene Day is more important than ever. Let us make hand hygiene a global priority and inspire hand hygiene and behaviour change – and let us make a call to action to policy-makers to provide safe work environments for healthcare heroes.

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