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The Global Handwashing Partnership

Webinar Summary: Moving from Evidence to Action: Highlights from the 2016 Handwashing Think Tank

Published: April 27, 2016  /  Published by Global Handwashing Partnership

This webinar summary provides insights into the discussions and recommendations from the 2016 Handwashing Behavior Change Think Tank.

On April 27, the Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP) presented the highlights of the 2016 Handwashing Think Tank that was held in London on April 12-13.

Objective of the 2016 Handwashing Think Tank

Addressing the thematic areas of handwashing integration, settings, and scale/sustainability, this Think Tank was designed to explore current knowledge about handwashing with soap, spark collaborative thinking about handwashing, and to drive the sector forward. Representatives from civil society organizations, governments, academic institutions, and the private sector discussed how the WASH sector can best move evidence into action.

Handwashing Integration

Hanna Woodburn, Secretariat Director of the GHP, presented on the theme of handwashing integration. Incorporating handwashing promotion into programs that have similar goals and objectives would allow the sector to harness energies and be less duplicative in programming. Hanna discussed the importance of behaviors and barriers of integration of handwashing programs and actual handwashing practices by mothers of newborns; the impact and challenges of integration handwashing into nutrition; and the role that handwashing plays in community-led total sanitation programs that mobilizes communities as a whole to move from open defecation to using sanitation infrastructure, as well as the opportunities of advocacy of these programs at the policy level (i.e., SDG indicator 6.2).


Dr. Robert Aunger of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine spoke on presented on the powerful concept and varying roles of behavior change. He began by underscoring the importance of how having an understanding of daily routines can determine certain behaviors; how the behaviors setting concept can affect the organization functions and how they relate to each other; and how manipulating emotional and physical drivers in one’s settings can lead to transformed social norms, sustained handwashing, and behavior change. Dr. Aunger used examples of case studies and research of behavior change in food hygiene among mothers in Nepal led and the use of “nudges” to affect the changes of behaviors to influence schoolchildren in Bangladesh to adopt handwashing practices.

Scale & Sustainability

Dr. Val Curtis, also of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine discussed going to scale and getting to sustainability though large-scale programs to achieve greater handwashing success. She elaborated on how interventions of handwashing promotion and behavior change can be brought to scale through an integrated community approach, the intensity of inputs, and investing in handwashing infrastructure, and ensuring that governments are providing funding can lead to sustainable programs. Dr. Curtis also discussed the work of the Toilet Board Coalition and its business model, which created a sustainable accelerated business model that used a co-innovation process at social, environmental, economic, and organizational levels to drive forward the creation and distribution of a user-centric, portable toilet. She ended the segment by discussing the how WaterSHED Asia also used a rigorous, user-centric design process to create and market the LaBobo HappyTap.

The way forward

Hanna ended the presentation by emphasizing that we need to ensure that handwashing is not an afterthought, which was an important outcome from the Think Tank. We also need to prioritize handwashing also on policy level, because the challenge that the SDGs has put forth is very big and we will need to make sure that we respond accordingly. The way forward for integration will require not just having more evidence but ensuring that we are acting more on the evidence we have. For settings, it will be the key will be understanding behavior settings through formative research and the application of this understanding to design of a creative behavior change intervention. In terms of scale and sustainability, effort will require by all sectors of handwashing promotion and more attention will need to be paid to the business models.

To learn more about what was specifically addressed, the recording can be viewed here. Full summaries, presentations, daily reports, and other deliverables can be accessed on the GHP website.

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