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How do you encourage people to clean their hands? Psychologists produce guidance for leaders to boost hand hygiene

27 July 2020

Hand hygiene is one of the most important weapons in the fight against the spread of Coronavirus. To support those responsible for public health interventions, the British Psychological Society (BPS) has released guidance on how to make sure their efforts are as effective as possible.

Professor Angel Chater, chair of the BPS Behavioural Science and Disease Prevention Taskforce which produced the guidance, said: “It is crucial that people know when, where and how to clean their hands, and why it is so important. As psychologists we can support those in charge of public health interventions and leaders to make sure their efforts are as effective as possible and influence real behaviour change.”

Professor Lucie Byrne-Davis, who led the writing of the document, said: “There are three key steps to follow to maximise success. What is also crucial is that leaders remember the target audience for their campaigns, they might need to translate posters and signs, adapt messages for different age groups and consider those with a disability who will need extra support. We have been really fortunate that leading experts in hand hygiene have supported us in developing our document, so that it works with the evidence from healthcare and from other countries about what works in supporting good hand hygiene.”

Teach - Make sure people know how and when to clean their hands effectively, mandate step by step hand cleaning training for schools and businesses. Consider all the methods you can use to teach people, (posters, social media, employers, community leaders), with clear pictures. Create ‘moments of hand hygiene’ for communities focused around home, public and personal spaces. For example, before you leave the house and before you enter a shop.

Provide and promote - Make hand cleaning easy. Discuss and work with business, schools and service providers on how they are going to provide opportunities to clean hands and encourage ‘moments of hand hygiene’. Use community leaders as role models to encourage hand cleaning.

Prompt, plan and pledge -  Place prompts in places where people should clean their hands, support people to make hand cleaning ‘plans’, and make sure you communicate the impact of hand hygiene with consequences which are meaningful for members of your communities. Remember to communicate the importance of hand cleaning as well as clear actions to follow.”

Read our guidance on encouraging hand hygiene in the community



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