On May 5, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) leads its annual campaign, SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands, to increase global awareness of the importance of hand hygiene among healthcare workers.1

Several studies recently presented at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases 2019 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, highlighted the importance of hand hygiene. Chang et al advised that the results of their study of 18 healthcare sites in the United States showed that healthcare workers were less likely to engage in hand hygiene practices when moving from dirtier to cleaner tasks compared with the inverse sequence of tasks (odds ratio, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.92-0.95; P <.0001).2 This finding likely contributes to the substantial prevalence of healthcare-associated infections observed in acute care facilities across Europe. Kinross et al estimated that on any randomly assessed day, 6.5% (95% CI, 5.5%-7.9%) of patients in acute care hospitals and 4.2% (95% CI, 2.6%-6.3%) of those in long-term care facilities had ≥1 healthcare-associated infection.3 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concurs with this finding, noting that 1 in 31 hospitalized patients has at least 1 healthcare-associated infection.4 However, an analysis conducted by Grayson et al 8 years after the implementation of the Australian National Hand Hygiene Initiative discovered that for every 10% increase in hand hygiene compliance with the WHO’s My 5 Moments methodology,5 there was an associated relative reduction in healthcare-associated Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia incidence of 15%.6

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Therefore, the WHO acknowledges that the most effective, and practical, manner through which quality of care and patient safety can be ensured on every level of healthcare service has been established, through evidence-based studies, to be the implementation of infection prevention and control (IPC) with hand hygiene protocols.

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The theme this year for the Clean Your Hands campaign demonstrates a focus on equal protection for patients and healthcare workers across all countries against infection, as well as against transmission of drug-resistant pathogens. To this end, the WHO requests that all healthcare facilities join the 2019 WHO Global Survey on IPC and Hand Hygiene by using 2 validated assessment tools (found on the WHO website). The use of these tools will allow healthcare institutions to develop a clear understanding of their current IPC protocol’s strengths and weakness, and also delivers well-defined mechanisms and actions to measurably improve and close any gaps therein.

These surveys are anonymous, and global results will be made available using aggregated data, thus allowing institutions to work on their IPC and patient safety without concerns of negative repercussions or scrutiny. The global use of these tools will allow the WHO to provide a situational analysis on the level of progress of current IPC and hand hygiene activities around the world, and to inform future efforts and resource use for IPC building and improvement. In fact, global surveys using 1 of the 2 framework tool presented in this year’s request were conducted in 2011 and 2015, making this year’s survey crucial for tracking the implementation of hand hygiene and IPC on a global scale.


1. Peters A, Borzykowski T, Tartari E, et al. “Clean Care for All—It’s in Your Hands”: The 5th of May 2019 World Health Organization SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands Campaign [published online April 22, 2019]. J Inf Dis. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiz086

2. Chang NC, Reisinger H, Schweizer M, et al. Hand hygiene and the sequence of patient care. Presented at: 29th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases; April 13-16, 2019; Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Abstract 2680.

3. Kinross P, Latour K, Karki T, et al. Prevalence of healthcare-associated infections in acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities in Europe, 2016-2017: results from two point prevalence surveys. Presented at: 29th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases; April 13-16, 2019; Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Abstract 4685.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings. https://www.cdc.gov/handhygiene/index.html. Accessed April 24, 2019.

5. The World Health Organization. My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene. https://www.who.int/infection-prevention/campaigns/clean-hands/5moments/en/. Accessed April 24, 2019.

6. Grayson ML, Stewardson AJ, Russo PL, et al. Effects of the Australian National Hand Hygiene Initiative after 8 years on infection control practices, health-care worker education, and clinical outcomes: a longitudinal study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2018;18(11):1269-1277.

This article originally appeared on Infectious Disease Advisor