New Delhi: Every year, April 7 is marked as the World Health Day by World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness about health issues and ensure health and healthcare facilities are accessible to everyone, everywhere in the world. To mark the day and talk about the importance of health and hygiene for all, team Banega Swasth India speaks with Ravi Bhatnagar, Director, External Affairs & Partnerships, SOA, Reckitt about handwashing, why it remains one of the most important tool and how through Dettol Banega Swasth India programme and various other flagship programmes, Reckitt is helping build a ‘Swasth’ and healthier India.
NDTV: Why is hand hygiene so important and what is the role of handwashing in ensuring a disease-free and healthier India?
Ravi Bhatnagar: We all learnt the importance of handwashing during COVID-19. It still remains relevant as we are seeing a sudden rise in H3N2 cases and once again experts are highlighting following the basic hygiene practices like handwashing. One thing we have realised that the core fundamental of building and ensuring a healthier India remains the same, it is handwashing and handwashing alone. It is the ramban, it is a very essential part of life, we just can’t get away without it. It is very important for everyone. India is a place, where we have a huge number of young and old population. Handwashing is something which is beyond the caste and religion. It is a common thread that connects everyone. I can also say, hygiene is the new religion.
NDTV: Tell us about Dettol’s programme and initiative on handwashing like the Dettol School Hygiene Education programme. What is the impact you are seeing on-ground?
Ravi Bhatnagar: We started this beautiful journey of Dettol School Hygiene Education Programme along with NDTV in 2014. In one of the seasons, we witnessed our campaign ambassador Amitabh Bachchan himself coming and CONDUCTING the ‘Swachhata Ki Paathshala’. That gave us a lot of wings, it motivated us to take the programme to pan India, to reach out not just to the private schools but to the public schools, aged schools, government schools and army schools. We began by reaching out to 2000 schools and now we are in 8 out of 10 schools in India. Today, we are in all the aspirational districts and blocks of India. We have seen reduction in absenteeism in schools from 36 to 22 per cent, where Reckitt’s Hygiene Curriculum has been implemented. We don’t have Ex- President of India with us, Dr Kalam, but he had put a lot of efforts in the programme, in fact he inspired us to include and start STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education on hygiene. Today, we have something called ‘Hygiene Buddy Kits’ that enable experiential learning and ignite STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) thinking. These kits include fun games for kids like “Soapy Play Dough” and “Learning How Germs Spread” and stimulate learning through Neuro Linguist Programming (NLP). During COVID period, we reached out to some 2 Lakh schools in India and distributed these kits. Not just that, in the curriculum, we have modern tools that have helped revolutionise the understanding and practice of hygiene through impactful, innovative interventions in India. We also have included gamification in the process, so that the basics of hand hygiene can be learned in the fun and engaging way. Over the years, we have seen a lot of progress, which has been very encouraging. The relationship between handwashing and the knowledge attitude and behaviour among kids have been exceptional, we have the response rate of 85 per cent, which means, 85 per cent of children have responded positively about the handwashing habit. A recent study, which was conducted by Sesame Street 2, in the schools where our Dettol Hygiene Curriculum has been implemented, it found that 88 per cent schools’ kids were following these practices on a regular basis.
NDTV: How do we ensure more stakeholders are involved in building a swasth and healthier India?
Ravi Bhatnagar: The journey of Banega Swsath India is a public private mix. Over the years, we had people from private sector like Anand Mahindra, Ronnie Screwvala, Adar Poonawalla joining us. Then we had people from academic background like Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Sangita Reddy, Poonam Khetrapal Singh mix. Over the years, we had people from classic thing is that more coherent approach is required and inter-sectorial approach is the need of the hour. We need everyone coming together in building a healthier and swasth India. This is what our Prime Minister also says – sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka prayas (Together with everyone, development for all, with everyone’s collaboration). Sabka prayas is basically fundamental to bring about the democratisation in healthcare. India has witnessed the eradication of Small Pox, Polio, we have halted the new HIV infections to a very large scale, we are gearing to make India TB-mukt. All of this has been possible because of collaborated efforts from every sector – be it public, private and people in general.
NDTV: Explain to us what Reckitt is doing in states like Manipur, Gujarat and other parts of India to build a healthy society.
Ravi Bhatnagar: There is a huge overlap of infections between TB and HIV positives. We have been seeing a large number of cases where people are getting infected with both these deadly viruses. What we are doing in these areas is that we are supporting the government and the state government in order to fulfil the dream of TB-mukt Bharat. From taking care of the diet of such patients, to supporting the patients with adequate nutrition and pledging support to the states, our programmes have been doing it all. In Manipur, we have implemented The Birds and Bees Talk programme, through which we are supporting the states to fulfil its ambition of becoming a healthier society. Through these flagship programmes we are moving ahead to fulfil the larger goal, which is Lakshaya Sampoorn Swasthya Ka.