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The future of hand hygiene according to the WHO

WHO Forschung

For the first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published an agenda for research priorities in the field of medical hand hygiene until 2030.

To coincide with World Hand Hygiene Day, the WHO published an important document in early May 2023 that will shape hand hygiene in healthcare in the future. In the document, officially titled WHO research agenda for hand hygiene in health care 2023-2030, the institution outlines the directions in which hand hygiene research will move by 2030. A number of renowned scientists and experts from the field of infection prevention have contributed.

The importance of hand hygiene in preventing infections is beyond question. However, hygienic hand disinfection is still carried out far too rarely in the medical environment. Thus, only 40 percent of all necessary hand disinfections take place [1]. Therefore, WHO sees the need to intensify research in the field of hand hygiene. The research agenda was developed through a comprehensive process. Overall, researchers and subject matter experts defined six overarching areas to be prioritized for hand hygiene improvement by 2030.

The 6 research areas of hand hygiene to focus on

The six hand hygiene research areas defined by the World Health Organization are:

  1. System change
  2. Education and training
  3. Assessment and feedback
  4. Reminders and communication
  5. Safety culture in the organization
  6. Impact of hand hygiene on infections and antibiotic resistance.
6 Forschungsfelder der WHO zur Händehygiene
WHO’s 6 hand hygiene research areas.

The expert group then used surveys to identify individual research questions in each of the six listed categories to be prioritized in the coming years. From a total of 192 research questions, 21 were ultimately identified as having the highest priority as part of the decision-making process.

Five questions are in Core Area 3 “Assessment and Feedback” alone. For example, there is a common consensus that the impact of feedback on healthcare workers’ hand hygiene compliance needs further investigation. And recording hand hygiene behaviour in non-hospital medical settings should also be a focus of research through 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

In this context, the use of the ingo-man® SmartNose represents a possible starting point. OPHARDT’s digital hand disinfectant dispensers combine the functions of “feedback” and “data collection” in one device.

Most of the research questions are assigned to core area 5 “Safety culture in the organization”. In this category, for example, the influence of managers on hand hygiene among hospital staff will be investigated.

The entire document with further details on the ambitious research agenda is available on the World Health Organization’s website.


Sources for the article WHO identifies 6 future hand hygiene research areas:

WHO research agenda for hand hygiene in health care 2023-2030: summary. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2023.

[1] Erasmus V, Daha TJ, Brug H, Richardus JH, Behrendt MD, Vos MC, et al. Systematic review of studies on compliance with hand hygiene guidelines in hospital care. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2010;31:283-94. doi: 10.1086/650451.

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