- Global Handwashing Day calls for coordinated action towards hand hygiene
- WHO recommends washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds
- Most childhood diseases are preventable by a thorough hand wash: Dr Shruti
New Delhi: In May 2020, in the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic in India, BBC Media Action, BBC’s international development charity, launched ‘Superhero Soap’, a 60-second animation film on social media platforms to promote handwashing, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The role of handwashing has accentuated in the recent past as it is one of the crucial defences against Novel Coronavirus. The film builds on the insight that your hand is the carrier of coronavirus and becomes the virus itself. Soap is positioned as the saviour. In the film, the superhero soap says, ‘You give me 20 seconds and I will give you freedom from this virus’ and also demonstrates the right way to wash hands. The soap signs off with a crucial message, ‘See you many times, every day’, hinting at washing hands regularly during the day.
Talking to NDTV about the need to promote handwashing and the film, Radharani Mitra, Global Creative Advisor at BBC Media Action, said,
In these extraordinary times, our behaviour is our best defence. We’ve used a classic comic book style to make this highly visual film that can appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. Even if you watch the film on mute, you will understand what the film has to say.
Ms Mitra believes that handwashing is a habit therefore should be inculcated from childhood. She further added,
We have found time and again that particularly in urban India, across all socio-economic classes, children can often be the drivers of changing behaviour amongst adults. We wanted children to enjoy the film and understand why handwashing is critical in the current times which is why we resorted to animation.
Adding to this, Dr Shruti Tandan-Pardasani, Consultant Critical Care, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, is of the opinion that hand hygiene should be taught once a child starts to feed himself/herself. Dr Shruti Tandan-Pardasani said,
Most childhood diseases ranging from respiratory to gastrointestinal illnesses are totally preventable by a thorough hand wash. It is the cheapest and easiest vaccination that we can give ourselves so why not start inculcating early in life. Use of liquid soap and water is preferable over alcohol based sanitisation which may often be hurried and hence incomplete and ineffective.
But how can we inculcate handwashing habits among children and encourage them to follow it regularly? On Global Handwashing Day celebrated each year on October 15, NDTV spoke to experts who shared some creative ideas to make handwashing effective and fun activity for children.
We need to remember that when we talk about children, we are talking about different age groups. We need to design handwashing messages differently for children in different age groups, explained Arundati Muralidharan, Manager, Policy at WaterAid India.
Sing A Song Or Recite A Rhyme
Ms Muralidharan added that young children (2-6 years of age) don’t necessarily understand that handwashing will protect them from germs. To promote handwashing with soap, the right technique and duration, we need to make the activity engaging and fun for them.
Washing hands for at least 20 seconds is as crucial as handwashing with soap. For the same, experts recommend singing a song or a rhyme. Parents and teachers can tell children that the process of washing hands will be complete only when the song is finished.
Earlier in March, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) had initiated the Safe Hands Challenge to promote handwashing and gathered support from people of all walks of life, ‘sing a song’ got a mention. American performer Billy Porter asked his viewers, especially children to sing ‘happy birthday’ song twice while rubbing and washing hands.
Hey y'all! You gotta wash your hands, kids! Follow the @WHO guidelines and spend 40-60 seconds scrubbing off all those germs. And keep your little asses at home so we can stop this virus and get back to living! Love you all! Stay safe & stay healthy! #SafeHands #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/DnHSpspChW
— Billy Porter (@theebillyporter) March 16, 2020
Adopt Novel Soap Technology
Gone are the days when we would have a simple bar soap for all purposes. Now, for children, there are special soaps that come in different shapes, sizes, colours and are even inspired by cartoons and animals. Providing children soap based on their favorite cartoon character or colour can attract them to handwashing. Elaborating on the same, Abhishek Sharma, Senior Research Manager, Sambodhi Research & Communications, said,
Colorful and translucent soaps with toys embedded at the centre have been clinical tested to improve handwashing practice among children by making it fun and goal-oriented. These soaps are usually smaller in size than normal bars. Washing hands while the toy is visible, incentivises children to wash their hands at regular intervals.
Make A Chart To Track Their Progress And Support Them
At home, parents can hang a sticker chart in the bathroom and give away a gold star or smiley face each time children wash their hands, suggests Dr Fazal Nabi, Director, Department of Pediatrics, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre in Mumbai. Parents can also put headers like before meal, after meal, after using a toilet to remind children to wash their hands at crucial intervals.
I have young children at home and handwashing can be challenging for them. Teaching and asking children to wash hands is one thing, providing them support in the form of reminding them to wash hands, assisting them, ensuring the right handwashing facilities for them is another. Make sure children have access to child-friendly handwashing facilities for example, wash basin. If the eash basin is at a great height, children won’t be able to access it so ensure there is a stool for them on which they can comfortably stand and wash their hands, said Ms Muralidharan.
Educate With Live Demonstration
Handwashing will remain ineffective if it is done without soap but how do you explain the role of soap to children? Dr Fazal Nabi, Director, Department of Pediatrics, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre in Mumbai suggests giving demonstration on why and how to wash hands.
Older children who are in primary school have a better understanding of handwashing. You need to tell them about the importance of handwashing and the role of germs in diseases. Make them understand the concept of fighting germs in a fun way, explained Ms Muralidharan.
For example, earlier in March, Amanda Lorenzo, an elementary teacher from Miami-Dade County Public School, Florida, United States, conducted an experiment with her school children to show how germs run away from the soap.
For the experiment, Ms Lorenzo used pepper as germs, water and soap. Ms Lorenzo shared a video on her Instagram where she can be heard asking one of the kids to dip her finger into the ‘virus’ which is essentially a bowl of water filled with black pepper. The virus doesn’t move. Then Ms Lorenzo asks the student to dip the finger in soap water and then touch the virus. Within a second the virus moved away from the soap.
The small experiment taught children about the need to wash hands with soap.
Practice What You Preach
Children often try to copy adults hence Dr Nabi believes emulation is the best way to teach a kid. Dr Nabi said,
If everyone at home washes hands frequently, a kid is bound to learn and practice the same.
While signing off, Ms Muralidharan also noted that teenagers are exposed to science at school so they have knowledge. She added,
You cannot give them tasks as ‘sing a song’ or play handwashing games like you do it with a 5-year-old. Here, you can get ask them to design and run a campaign on handwashing and see how they motivate their peers to adopt the practice.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. 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 highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. 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 become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.