January 11, 2018
It’s flu season in many parts of the world, and children are absent from urban and rural classrooms fighting cold, fever, diarrhea and other infectious illnesses. While most people with proper care and access to medicines will recover, 1,400 children die every day from infectious illnesses that are preventable. Washing hands with soap at critical times daily is considered the golden rule of prevention world over. A majority of infectious illnesses can be prevented through the simple act. This would save millions of lives.
In urban areas, parents are choosing a coin sized amount of sanitizer over a hand wash with soap, even when water sources are readily available. Studies have linked antibiotic ingredients like triclosan or triclocarban, to reduced natural immunity of children, as well as to antimicrobial resistance. Handwashing with water and soap does not just remove germs, it also removes dirt from hands. Shocked by the infant mortality rates and the overdependence on sanitizers, our team of women designers wondered how we could add an element of fun to washing hands, so as to make it an activity that kids look forward to.
During our initial user research, we focused on a child’s daily activities in school and at home. The fact that habits are formed between the ages of 3 and 6, defined the age group to focus on. We found arts and crafts to be a big focal point in school and at home. Looking at kids’ behavior, the idea of SoaPen- a soap kids could draw with – came about!
Through awareness demos in schools, SoaPen has allowed us to start the conversation around the importance of handwashing through playful means. Children draw with SoaPen on the back and front of their dry hands. When taken under water, the drawing lathers up. Children rub their hands to remove every trace of the drawing, thus washing their hands for the ideal span of 20 to 40 seconds. Its portable nature allows caretakers to carry SoaPen with them when on the go!
Watch the video here to see how SoaPen works.
Further, SoaPen has been a great teaching tool in ways that we did not imagine while we were designing. In October 2017, we were invited to demo SoaPen at a special needs school in NYC. We weren’t sure how the SoaPen would do in such a setting as we were warned by the teachers of the school that they had trouble promoting hand hygiene to the students. Surprisingly, even the most sensitive kids loved it! The playful nature of SoaPen allowed us to approach this touchy subject in an innovative way, which made the kids open and excited to try SoaPen. This introduction and positive response has opened up an entirely new arena for SoaPen in special needs schools, child therapy, and pediatrics.
The team concluded a successful Kickstarter campaign in October 2017 and the product is due to launch in May 2018. For more information visit: www.soapen.com. To follow the SoaPen journey, find the team on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Written by Shubham Issar, co-founder of SoaPen
If you would like to receive regular updates from the Global Handwashing Partnership, please subscribe to our mailing list or follow us online.
© 2017 The Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP).