Special Signs May Encourage Better Hand Washing Practices

hand-soapAs U.S. officials declare flu emergencies across the country, hand washing hygiene is more important than ever. But if you saw our previous post on hand washing rates, then you know many Americans aren’t doing their part to stop the spread of influenza.

So what can we do to encourage better hand washing practices?

According to a new study – all we need is more relevant signage.

The Study

The study, which surveyed 252 college-men, posted signs in campus bathrooms that read, “4 out of 5 Males Wash Their Hands,” alongside pictures of students in University apparel and a guide to proper hand washing.

As men exited the bathroom, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire pertaining to the sign they’d just seen and whether or not they’d followed suit.

Of the men who saw the signs, 86 percent reported washing their hands. When compared to a baseline study conducted in advance of placing signs, there was a nearly 11 percent increase in hand washing rates (from 75 percent).

So what’s next?

Other factors such as whether or not participants were in the bathroom alone or in the presence of others may have affected their hand washing behavior, so more more research is definitely needed to confirm the effectiveness of these signs — especially in the hospitality and healthcare industry. However, lead researcher Maria Lapinski still feels the results have important implications.

“It is important from a public health standpoint, because quality hand-washing can prevent transmission of many diseases, and we have good evidence that people typically don’t do it as often or as well as they should.”

Other studies on the subject have shown that good restroom hygiene, as well as the availability of foaming hand soap and hand dryers have also been shown to increase hand washing rates in public restrooms.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons