Hand Hygiene Improvement

Dr. Hal King 12/30/15

One of the more important intervention tools in public health to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases, also common to several public environments where infectious diseases are transmitted (health care, schools, retail food service, and home environments) is proper hand washing.

I wrote this blog in the past to demonstrate a business model for hand hygiene improvement in schools.  It is being reproduced here again with the permission of one of The Lab’s sponsors (GOJO).  We created this program for Chick-fil-A inc as a partnership between GOJO and Chick-fil-A inc. to enable, fund, and sustain better hand hygiene with sanitizing hand wipes in our nations schools.

In most elementary schools, the only way for children to keep their hands clean and prevent the spread of germs by hands is when (and if) they go to the restroom—and only then if restrooms have warm water and soap available for handwashing. Teachers also struggle with the time necessary to enable 20-40 children to wash up before they eat a quick lunch. There’s also no other method for children to keep hands clean when they are in the classroom, where the exposure to germs is highest like after recess or just before eating snacks.

Elementary school children need an easy way to clean hands and reduce the spread of germs in the classroom throughout the day. And it must be linked to a fun and incentive-based curriculum to teach hand hygiene without requiring more work for the teacher. It would also be nice if there were a business value proposition to encourage participating businesses in the community to support and sustain the health program in all elementary schools.

Wipe Out Germs.

A new business model designed to improve hand hygiene in the classroom recently evolved from an existing partnership between Chick-fil-A and GOJO Industries. We initiated the original program providing co-branded PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes at Chick-fil-A Restaurant play areas, where children typically don’t wash hands after play and before eating.

My studies at Chick-fil-A Restaurants confirmed that children don’t often wash their hands before eating in this environment, and providing a hand sanitizing wipe for this purpose was easily adopted and appreciated by parents who visited our restaurants.

I remember talking to the owners of GOJO and sharing with them a story about how our owner, Mr. Truett Cathy, enjoyed giving “complements to our customers” to enhance their experience in our restaurants. We decided then to place the words “PURELL Hand Sanitizing Wipe, Complements of Chick-fil-A” on every single-use wipe package. This program has been very effective in improving hand hygiene events by children before they eat, while also enhancing customer loyalty (and experience) for both the Chick-fil-A and PURELL® brands.

The program also enhanced the culture for hand hygiene in the restaurant improving employee hand hygiene awareness. In fact, the program was so successful, Chick-fil-A became the first in the industry to roll out a hand hygiene program specifically geared to kids. In 2012, we launched Wipe Out Germs in all of our restaurants.

And now Chick-fil-A and GOJO have extended the program into schools. Wipe Out Germs in Schools provides PURELL Hand Sanitizing Wipes in classrooms, along with a nationally accredited curriculum to teach hand hygiene via reading, math and science.

To validate this business concept to improve public health, Chick-fil-A Operators in Georgia participated in a test and sponsored the program in their local schools, also providing the opportunity to the schools to attend fun family night events with teachers, parents and their children who’d completed the curriculum;  the family night, which included fun games like “Pin the Wipe on the Germ” and “Germ Hunt,” was scheduled for the Wipe Out Germs “graduates” who received a certificate of completion  for prizes and free Chick-fil-A products. Several school principals attended these events, and expressed a desire to expand the program in their schools as part of their school health program. Parents, teachers and participating Chick-fil-A restaurants sustained the PURELL Hand Sanitizing Wipes in the classroom by purchasing the wipes online (supported by Staples.com and shipped directly to the participating classroom).

A Lesson Plan for Reduced Absenteeism.

This program model has the potential to significantly reduce the spread of germs in the classroom, thereby positively impacting elementary school absenteeism.  Numerous peer-reviewed studies provide evidence that elementary school absenteeism due to infection is significantly reduced when an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is used in the classroom as part of a hand hygiene program.

In one such sentinel study published in the American Journal of Infection Control (Hammond et al., 2000):

   In 16 schools in five school districts, affecting more than 6,000 students in Delaware, Ohio, Tennessee, and California, the overall reduction in absenteeism was 19.8% for schools that used an alcohol gel hand sanitizer in the classroom compared with control schools. Data from the school system with the largest teacher population showed that teacher absenteeism also decreased 10.1% in schools where a hand sanitizer was used in classrooms.

In another example, a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control (Guinan et al., 2002) that looked at hand sanitizer use in the elementary school classroom showed that the number of absences was more than 50% less in the test group (over 290 students in five independent schools) compared to control schools.

In addition, PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes sanitize hands, killing illness-causing germs on hands and also remove dirt and grime. Of course, soap and water are the best means to clean hands, but when soap and water are not available or not used (which is common in elementary school environments), then sanitizing hand wipes are the next best thing.

The Wipe Out Germs in Schools program just rolled out to all Chick-fil-A Restaurants to support participating schools in 2015. Soon, we hope all elementary schools will have a new tool to reduce the spread of germs in the classroom.

Learn more about this new program at:  wipeoutgerms.com.

Dr. Hal King

Founder and CEO of Public Health Innovations