Hygiene in health facilities: Supporting health workers to lead quality care
By Carolyn Moore, Global Handwashing Partnership
May 5th marks two important global advocacy days — Hand Hygiene Day and International Day of the Midwife. This year’s Hand Hygiene Day campaign focuses on the prevention of sepsis, and International Day of the Midwife celebrates midwives leading the way with quality care.
Midwives are instrumental to maternal and newborn survival. They can prevent more than two-thirds of maternal deaths, including from sepsis, a leading cause of death for mothers and newborns. However, many midwives must provide care without access to vital water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) supplies and infrastructure. A recent study found that 66% of health facilities in low- and middle-income countries lack piped water and soap for handwashing. Poor WASH makes proper hand hygiene impossible, and puts patients and health workers at increased risk of infection.
Lack of WASH puts health workers in an impossible position. For example, shortages of soap can mean that a midwife must manage multiple patients without being able to wash her hands between deliveries. Lack of clean water can mean that nurses have to take time away from patient care to carry water, or that health facilities are unprepared for health emergencies. When the right staff and support are available, the effect on patients is dramatic -- when handwashing and clean birth practices are in place, newborn survival rates can improve by 44%.
WASH services aren’t the only solution to sepsis, but they are a major, and addressable cause. Ensuring water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in health facilities is a critical step to fulfilling everyone’s right to quality care. On May 5th, we’re calling on decision makers to ensure adequate access to soap, water, and handwashing stations at all facilities according to WHO’s recommended standards. Behavior change initiatives and accountability for handwashing in quality indicators are also essential.
Everyone has a role to play in preventing sepsis by advocating for improved water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities. Join us to call for the policies, investments, and infrastructure that will make it possible for everyone to access care from a health worker with clean hands.
Read our new infographic to learn how health systems leaders, health workers, and advocates can work to improve WASH in health facilities.