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Children wash hands to prevent flu and other illness

The Issue

In the United States, on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from seasonal flu complications each year. To prevent the seasonal and H1N1 flu, the Centers for Disease Control recommends getting a flu vaccine and practicing everyday preventive actions, such as frequent handwashing. Handwashing is easy and the most important step to help prevent the spread of the flu. Yet research indicates that many adults and students do not practice frequent or proper handwashing. In fact, 1 out of 5 people do not wash their hands after using the restroom (American Society of Microbiology, 2005).

What Has ANR Done?

Handwashing is part of the evidence-based nutrition education curricula that UC Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program (FSNEP) educators use to train teachers. The teachers then deliver to their students the lessons on the importance of handwashing and proper steps to wash hands. The UC FSNEP evaluation workgroup developed a retrospective survey to determine if positive changes in student and teacher health behaviors were linked to delivery of FSNEP nutrition education curriculum. The “Teacher Observation Tool” was piloted during the 2008-2009 school year. Educators sent the survey weblink to teachers in Fresno, Tulare and Santa Clara counties.

The Payoff

FSNEP students wash hands more often

Reporting for 946 students in grades 3 through 6, 34 teachers completed the confidential online survey. When asked if they agree with the statement, “Compared to the beginning of the school year, more students now wash hands more often”, 32% of teachers strongly agreed, 62% agreed, and 6% were not sure or were unable to observe. Clearly, the students were aware of the importance of handwashing and practiced this behavior more often. We expect that increased handwashing will help prevent illness, which will improve student attendance rates.

Clientele Testimonial

Teacher comments: “FSNEP germ lesson helped influence handwashing;” “Now they have a set time before eating lunch to wash hands - I have noticed less sick students when they consistently practice handwashing;” “Children always wash their hands before eating;” “During flu and cold season, they talk a lot about practicing personal hygiene, covering mouth when they sneeze and washing their hands.”


Supporting Unit:

UC FSNEP Evaluation Workgroup
Marisa Neelon, mqneelon@ucdavis.edu, (925) 646-6128
Brenda Roche, bkroche@ucdavis.edu, (323)260-3299