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Global Handwashing Day: Here's a brief History of handwashing and it's significance

In 1846, he showed that doctors and medical students often went directly to the delivery suite after performing autopsies and had a disagreeable odour on their hands despite hand washing with soap and water before entering the clinic.

Health Desk Health Desk
New Delhi Updated on: October 18, 2020 11:58 IST
Global Handwashing Day: Here's a brief History of handwashing and it's significance
Image Source : INSTAGRAM/ALLABOUTALLEGRA

Global Handwashing Day: Here's a brief History of handwashing and it's significance

Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor working in Vienna General Hospital, is known as the father of hand hygiene and Oliver Wendell Holmes in Boston, USA, established that hospital-acquired diseases were transmitted via the hands of health care workers. In 1846, he showed that doctors and medical students often went directly to the delivery suite after performing autopsies and had a disagreeable odour on their hands despite handwashing with soap and water before entering the clinic. Dr Sonar Narula, Consultant Microbiology, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre shares a brief history and significance of handwashing.
 
Based on his observation, he developed a theory that those performing autopsies got 'cadaverous particles' on their hands, which they then carried from the autopsy room into the maternity ward. A few years later in Scutari, Italy, the Crimean War brought about a new hand washing champion, Florence Nightingale. At a time when most people believed that infections were caused by foul odours called miasmas, Florence Nightingale implemented hand washing and other hygiene practices in the war hospital in which she worked. 
 
Sadly, the hand hygiene practices promoted by Semmelweis and Nightingale were not widely adopted initially. Over the years, hand washing with soap and water, and other forms of hand hygiene has been gaining recognition as a cost-effective, essential tool for achieving good health and infection prevention. Subsequently, many studies have proved that hand hygiene helps in reducing the hospital acquired infections and is also essential for one’s good health.
 
Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to advocating for handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
 
Global Handwashing Day was founded by the Global Handwashing Partnership, and is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. Global Handwashing Day is celebrated every year on October 15th. This day was promoted by the UN General Assembly when its first event took place during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.
 
The first Global Handwashing Day was held in 2008, when over 200 million people around the world washed their hands with soap in more than 70 countries. India was one of their biggest participants during that year, as an estimated 100 million school children around the country participated in lathering up for better health and hygiene.
 
Since 2008, community and national leaders have used Global Handwashing Day to spread the word about handwashing, build sinks and tippy taps, and demonstrate the simplicity and value of clean hands.  Global Handwashing Day is endorsed by governments, schools, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies, individuals, and more.
 
The 2020 Global Handwashing Day theme is “Hand Hygiene for All.” This year’s theme, seeks to raise awareness of making soap and water available globally, especially in public places, schools, and health care facilities. It also calls for institutions and individuals to improve hand hygiene efforts in the COVID-19 response that can outlast the pandemic and ensure continued access to clean water and soap.
 
Handwashing with soap and water is not only simple and inexpensive, but also can dramatically reduce the number of people who get sick. Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. Handwashing education in the community can:
 
• Reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by about 23–40%
• Reduce absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29–57%
• Reduce diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by about 58%
• Reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by about 16–21%

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