Each April, World Health Day celebrates the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) and renews the call to action to raise public health standards around the world. Within North America, preventing the spread of germs that cause illnesses such as influenza and the common cold, or bacteria that cause healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs), is a critical challenge every year.

Poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion annually, with 39 percent, or $227 billion, from “lost productivity” from employee absenteeism due to illness or what researchers called “presenteeism,” when employees report to work but illness keeps them from performing at their best, according to The Integrated Benefits Institute. In hygiene-critical facilities such as hospitals, germ spread can also cause HCAIs which affected 772,000 patients in the United States in 2011.

However, with proper hygiene habits and supplies, these sicknesses can be contained or even prevented. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that 20 percent of respiratory infections (e.g., the common cold) can be prevented through hand washing. Precluding these everyday illnesses through hand washing can also have a much broader positive effect on overall well being, as reducing infections helps avoid overuse of antibiotics, which is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance around the world. As health and well being are intricately tied to personal hygiene, healthcare facilities are charged with providing proactive solutions for environments that are less conducive to germ spread.

Good hygiene is a joint effort that depends on hospital administrators and environmental services staff. Here are some tips on how healthcare facilities can help improve hygiene on World Health Day and beyond:

  • Education – Take advantage of educational portals, such as the Healthy Hands website, or watch hand hygiene education videos from youtube, which provides healthcare facilities with tools reminding workers, patients and visitors of the importance of hand hygiene.
  • Innovation – Leverage technology such as Intelligent Restroom System, which uses sensor-equipped dispensers in hospitals’ general restroom areas to remotely track supply levels, ensuring that facilities are always equipped with enough soap and hand towels to support good hygiene. This technology also helps staff focus their cleaning efforts on critical areas like patient rooms, rather than spending time routinely checking visitor restrooms that may not need attention.
  • Research – New studies continue to show us better ways to improve hygiene. Recent research by SCA, reveals that not only having the right dispensers but where they are placed has a significant impact on hand hygiene compliance. In fact, ensuring dispensers are consistently placed in accessible areas can increase usage by 50 percent.