A new business model to support better hand hygiene and food safety in our nation’s elementary schools can improve public health for our children
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 hand washing. 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 or before lunch time. 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 and food safety to kids 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 (including the sanitizing hand wipes and surface sanitizers/disinfectants) in all elementary schools.
A new business model has been designed to improve hand hygiene in the classroom and food safety in schools has been developed. 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 a 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 5 independent schools) compared to control schools.
Sanitizing hand wipes have the potential to be even more effective because the wipes also remove dirt and grim as they sanitize the hands which are then thrown away. 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. Soon, we hope all elementary schools will have a new program to reduce the spread of germs in the classroom.