Child Health Outcomes to Identify Effective Measures of Handwashing

Am J Trop Med Hyg 2011 85:882-892; doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2011.11-0142

Using Child Health Outcomes to Identify Effective Measures of Handwashing

Stephen P. Luby, Amal K. Halder, Tarique M. N. Huda, Leanne Unicomb, and Richard B. Johnston

We assessed which practical handwashing indicators were independently associated with reduced child diarrhea or respiratory disease. Fieldworkers collected 33 indicators of handwashing at baseline in 498 households in 50 villages in rural Bangladesh. Community monitors visited households monthly and asked standard questions about diarrhea and symptoms of respiratory illness among children under 5 years of age.

In multivariate analysis, three handwashing indicators were independently associated with less child diarrhea

  • mothers reporting usually washing hands with soap before feeding a child,
  • mothers using soap when asked to show how they usually washed their hands after defecation, and
  • children having visibly clean finger pads.

Two indicators were independently associated with fewer respiratory infections

  • mothers allowing their hands to air dry after the handwashing demonstration and
  • the presence of water where the respondents usually wash hands after defecation.

These rapid handwashing indicators should be considered for inclusion in handwashing assessments.

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