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[Webinar Summary] Making the Case for Handwashing

October 2, 2020

By: Lily McCann, FHI 360/Global Handwashing Partnership

On October 1, 2020, the Global Handwashing Partnership launched the Handwashing Thursday Series. The series aims to amplify the launch of the Partnership’s upcoming publication: The Handwashing Handbook. The handbook will serve as an all-in-one resource for handwashing programming and is set to launch on Global Handwashing Day, October 15.

The first webinar of the series highlighted the second chapter of the Handwashing Handbook titled, “Making the Case for Handwashing.” For many handwashing champions, the case for handwashing is clear, but it is important to consider the challenges for handwashing and priorities of the various stakeholders. This webinar followed the Handwashing Handbook chapter, featuring presentations on how to make the case for handwashing within government, funders, private sector, and related programs.

The Case for Handwashing

Dr. David Berendes, an epidemiologist and hand hygiene subject matter expert at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presented the case for handwashing. His presentation described the basic science behind handwashing practice and pointed to evidence around the cross-cutting benefits of handwashing as a far-reaching solution. Dr. Berendes also touched on handwashing alternatives for resource-constrained settings, including the use of alcohol-based handrub.

Furthermore, his presentation highlighted the challenge with handwashing adoption. Handwashing practice is affected by not only the accessibility of handwashing facilities, but other behavioral determinants such as social norms. While handwashing practice remains a global challenge, Dr. Berendes reiterates the importance of this simple, live-saving act to maximize impact to achieve SDG 6 and other Sustainable Development Goals.

Making the Case within the Private Sector

Mr. Ron Clemmer of the Global Handwashing Partnership Secretariat then explored the role of the private sector with handwashing promotion. For many Global Handwashing Partnership private sector partners, handwashing naturally aligns with their corporate responsibility and business objectives. Handwashing can also align with corporate partner activities to address a public health need in communities around the world. A video by Colgate-Palmolive, a founding member of the Global Handwashing Partnership, was shown as an example of private sector support for handwashing.

Mr. Clemmer reiterated the importance of investing in handwashing for all companies. For any business, productivity can be increased when their workforce avoids preventable illnesses and prevent lost days of work. He summarizes by saying handwashing is a good investment for employees and good for business overall.

Making the Case with Government and Funders

Ms. Joanna Esteves-Mills, the Global Coordinator of the recently launched WHO/UNICEF Hand Hygiene for All Global Initiative, presented on making the case to funders and governments. Governments play a key role as the “duty bearer” and are responsible for ensuring the national population has accessible and affordable hand hygiene facilities and supplies. Governments also play a key role in the promotion of hand hygiene behaviors through evidence-based behavior change approaches. This can be done by ensuring a strong enabling environment for sustainable improvement in access and use of hand hygiene facilities and includes prioritizing hand hygiene through national policies and plans, investing in hand hygiene, and coordinating efforts across sectors and actors. Governments are often interested in the scale and nature of national health issues, return on investment, and links to other national or global targets. Governments are also driven by the interests of the voting population.

The role of funders lies in supporting government-led policies and strategies. Funders can best achieve this by ensuring that hand hygiene is prioritized across their areas of focus and by ensuring funding streams are not siloed to facilitate the integration of hand hygiene across sectors and areas of work. Making the case for handwashing to funders is similar to advocating for government support. Funders are also interested in maximizing the return on their investment and want to know the latest evidence on the cost and related effects that can be expected from hand hygiene approaches.

From Commitment to Action: Hand Hygiene for All Global Initiative

The webinar highlighted the new UNICEF/WHO co-led Hand Hygiene for All Global Initiative, which builds on the momentum for hand hygiene created by the global pandemic and seeks to ensure hand hygiene becomes a mainstay in society. The initiative aims to develop a common framework for action, building partnerships and pushing for country roadmaps to prioritize hand hygiene activities. The initiative ultimately proposes a framework for coordination and collaboration among global and regional partners, with the primary aim of supporting and growing country-led efforts and investments.

Moderated Panel Discussion and Key Takeaways

A moderated panel discussion followed the presentations, diving deeper into various topics highlighted throughout the presentations and answering audience questions. Overall, the key takeaways from the webinar include:

  • Handwashing with soap is simple, but it is often neglected. Handwashing benefits are cross-cutting. To be most successful, health and development efforts must include strategies to promote and facilitate handwashing.
  • Addressing handwashing requires multiple stakeholders. As the presentations emphasized, governments, private sector, and funders play an important role in prioritizing handwashing.
  • Different actors may have different motivations to promote handwashing. It’s important to understand the perceived benefits of investing in handwashing for different stakeholders.

The full webinar recording is available below.

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Category: Community Forum

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