Hand washing

Does anyone know a clean-freak? Maybe you are one. Cleanliness is important for many reasons – most notably because it helps us avoid illness. We have learned a great deal about prevention of illness and infections through proper methods of cleansing and sanitation.

Global sanitation prevents premature death

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, water, sanitation, and hygiene have the potential to prevent at least 9.1 percent of the global disease burden and 6.3 percent of all deaths. An estimated 801,000 children younger than 5 years of age perish from diarrhea each year, mostly in developing countries. Globally about 2,200 children are dying every day as a result of diarrheal diseases.

Infection control

In developed countries, hospitals have implemented infection control that through research has been shown to be a cornerstone of good patient care. Far from the days of optional or non-existent use of exam and surgical gloves, we now know how important even the simple act of hand washing is.

In a hospital, most of the patients are at high risk for infections due to a compromised immune system and risk for cross-contamination from staff or other patients. Very often the patient himself is carrying the infection when they are admitted and just not showing signs of infection yet. Sometimes infection can result from exposure to another patient but likely it is due to a nurse’s improper or non-existent hand washing.

Healthy People 2020

One of the goals of Healthy People 2020 is “Prevent, reduce, and ultimately eliminate health-care-associated infections (HAIs).” You may be aware that HAIs are the most common complication of hospital care. Implementing prevention practices can lead to up to a 70 percent reduction in certain HAIs. Health care cost savings through implementing preventive practices in is estimated to be $25 billion to $31.5 billion.

If you have been in a hospital lately, you may see nurses with long hair, long fingernails, and long shirt sleeves or jackets. Not very long ago, these practices were forbidden in a strict dress code; the aim was infection prevention. It does not seem likely that nurses will return to white, starched uniforms, however some institutions are bringing back these traditions to protect patients from infections. Proposals include no neckties, long-sleeved shirts, or lanyards with name tags.

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