New Delhi: After disrupting lives and livelihoods for two years, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be settling down a bit and life, what it looks like, is getting back to normal. When COVID-19 hit India and the country went into a full lockdown, it brought a complex array of challenges for everyone, including children and adolescents. Children, one of the most vulnerable groups, who were used to going to school, meeting a bunch of people and interacting with friends and teachers were suddenly at home. This resulted in a loss of school education, grief, fear, social isolation, and increased screen time. However, now children are stepping out of their homes and going to school and parks. With life getting back to normal and the easing of COVID protocols, it is important that hygiene practices are continued to be followed.
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The relationship between hygiene and health has been made crystal clear by the COVID-19 pandemic. Handwashing with soap is a highly cost-effective public health measure. Dettol Banega Swasth India along with Apollo Foundation has created a one-of-a-kind Hygiene Play Park in Aragonda, Andhra Pradesh to promote the importance of good hygiene practices.
Dettol Hygiene Play Park is a designated space designed for children to engage in various play experiences through its hygiene themed simple and fun games. The vision of the park is to create a child-friendly, inclusive safe space for children to engage in simple and fun games and reinforce critical preventive hygiene messages like handwashing with soap after using toilet, and before eating, among others.
With ‘hygiene’ as its core theme, the play park has been created for children of all age groups and uses environment-friendly materials like rope, wood and non-toxic paint.
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The Hygiene Play Park has four key components:
- Hygiene Games: to promote and reinforce hygiene messages while keeping the fun and joy of playing a game. A spin has been given to traditional games like hopscotch wherein you have to follow the steps for personal hygiene and toilet habits. The twister game too has got a hygiene spin; children have to use body parts to touch the matching hygiene items – all at once. There is also a handwash maze.
- Hygiene Essentials: Handwashing and sanitiser stations have been installed with key steps to follow while washing hands with soap or using a hand sanitiser.
- Free Play Games: A trampoline and toddler jungle gym have been put under a fun play zone.
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Junction: a designated and guided space equipped with materials for children to experiment and create hygiene solutions and new things.
Speaking about the need for a park like this, Ravi Bhatnagar, Director, External Affairs & Partnerships SOA, Reckitt said,
The last few years have been exceptionally tough on children. They have lost out on physical activity and playing outdoors. We understand the importance of growth through games and playing on-ground. We also understand the importance of always following best hygiene practices. With Dettol’s Hygiene Play Parks, we bring play and hygiene together where we educate children on superior hygiene practices while encouraging them to play without any fear of germs and falling sick.
Talking to NDTV about the importance of educating children about hygiene, Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, Founder, Chairman of Apollo Hospitals Group said,
It is very vital that every individual understands the importance of hygiene and health. Good hygiene leads to better health. Teaching children about good hygiene and health from early childhood will make a significant impact as they grow up.
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Dr Reddy thanked Reckitt for introducing the first hygiene park and further explained the link between health and hygiene. He said,
Two-thirds of the children’s disorders are from diarrhea and pneumonia which stems from lack of hygiene. This means you can eradicate two-thirds of paediatric health problems by handwashing.
Dr Reddy believes that the hygiene park will not only benefit children but adults too as often they children and their antics. He added,
I wish the country adopts this and children all over the country benefit from it. It is a park that is enjoyable and a park, which will ignite children’s cognitive intelligence.
Mr Bhatnagar shared the future plans with regard to taking the initiative of Hygiene Play Park to other villages and cities in the country. Speaking at the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India’s Lakshya – Sampoorn Swasthya Ka telethon, Mr Bhatnagar said,
We have requests from at least seven states now. The next will be in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur and the Gorakhdham Temple Trust is giving us the land for 100 years to establish a play park. We are also partnering with the Uttarakhand state government to have a play park in the Chamoli district. We will be scaling it up but it is very important to measure. if there is a change in the cognitive behaviour of the kids. When we talk about health, it is not just about the absence of disease, it is about complete well-being. And for that, it is important to have proven results where we can tell how we have changed the lives of kids through play parks. Soon we will be coming up with a plan to scale it up in a more efficient way which will be a win-win for India.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.