Ground breaking cross-border project studies how children can be motivated to wash hands thoroughly
As children, we spend time learning, developing and internalizing many behaviours that are critical to our adult lives. Why shouldn’t this also be the case for proper handwashing techniques?
An EU-INTERREG funded study – falling under the cross-border, cross-sector EurHealth-1Health and health-i-care projects – is setting out to answer precisely this question.
Due to increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance, preventative measures like hand hygiene play an increasingly critical role in human health. The focus of this EU project has therefore been set on analyzing how knowledge can be effectively transferred to children on the topics of hygiene and infection prevention. As a basis for this, a scientific study has been commissioned to investigate how the introduction of child-friendly soap dispensers and age-appropriate education affect the infection awareness and behaviour of primary school children.
These child-friendly dispensers are fitted with a friendly face and a fun LED nose. The nose lights up and helps instruct children on how long to wash their hands. For the purpose of this study, the soap dispensers are also equipped with intelligent OPHARDT hygiene dispensing components that precisely measure the amount of soap dispensed. To evaluate hand hygiene behaviour in schools, each entry into the washroom is recorded anonymously via sensors.
The child-friendly design of the dispenser systems was developed in cooperation with Prof. K. Becker from the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (WWU) Münster and OPHARDT hygiene. Together with partners from the Institute of Educational Sciences and the Hygiene Institute of the WWU and the University of Twente (Dept. of Psychology, Health and Technology), these dispenser systems are currently part of the hand-washing study taking place in primary schools in the Steinfurt district.
Before the intervention phase of the study, students in the third grade filled out a questionnaire that determined how knowledgeable they were about infectious diseases and their prevention. This survey will be given to the children again at the end of the intervention phase to identify potential changes in infection awareness.
Introduction the motivational dispensers at the Steinfurt primary schools
The entire study is being conducted at thirteen primary schools in the Steinfurt district and involves approximately 2,600 primary school children. Before the interventions, hand washing behaviour was measured in all study locations using OPHARDT hygiene intelligent soap dispensers with a neutral design.
With the recently launched intervention phase, a total of sixty child-friendly soap dispensers were installed in the school’s washroom facilities. The study is divided into four groups. The first group serves as the control, retaining the neutrally designed soap dispensers. The other three study groups were given soap dispensers designed specifically for children. Groups three and four, however, are supplemented with an age-appropriate knowledge transfer on the subject of hand hygiene. The fourth group of primary children also receives practical instructions on proper hand washing techniques.
The knowledge transfer intervention, consisting of both theoretical and practical components, will be carried out throughout May 2019 by Wilhelms University at the participating schools.
The intelligent soap dispensers were developed by OPHARDT hygiene to provide valid, reliable data on hand washing behaviour. This latest experiment on hand washing behaviour will allow scientists to draw cutting-edge conclusions about the effects of hand washing interventions on children.
Stay tuned for the results of this ground-breaking project. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.