A doctor washes her hands. A doctor washes her hands.
World Hand Hygiene Day 2024

Raising hand hygiene awareness together

Illustration of two hands with drops
Hand hygiene is one of the simplest and most effective measures to prevent infections in healthcare facilities – and thus save lives. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is using World Hand Hygiene Day on May 5th to draw attention to the importance of hand washing, skin care and hand disinfection once again. It’s a great opportunity for us to address the topic and explain why hand hygiene education is still so important.
The COVID-19 pandemic clearly highlighted how knowledge and information play a key role in fighting infections. From social distancing rules and wearing masks, to the right way to disinfect hands: only those who know how to act correctly can break chains of infection.

Fighting infections with knowledge

This is precisely why this year's WHO World Hand Hygiene Day is positioned under the banner “Why is sharing knowledge about hand hygiene still so important? Because it helps stop the spread of harmful germs in healthcare”.

The slogan highlights the fact that sharing knowledge about hand hygiene – for example through effective training – is just as important as it was 15 years ago, when this day of action was celebrated for the first time. After all, many healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) can still be prevented by carrying out hand hygiene correctly at the right time.

Several nursing staff sitting at the table and talking.

The importance of hand hygiene in healthcare

A nurse in a protective suit and gloves stands at a patient's bedside and checks their pulse.

The figures speak for themselves: every year, millions of people around the world contract so-called healthcare-associated infections (HAI), i.e. infections that occur during medical treatment – usually in a hospital environment [1].

According to a WHO study, even in high-income countries, seven out of 100 patients – almost 10 percent – contract at least one infection during their hospital stay. This can quickly prove dangerous, especially for people with weakened immune systems. On average, one in 10 affected patients dies from their infection [2].

The majority of HAI occur when we transmit pathogens directly from skin to skin via our hands, or indirectly to others by touching surfaces. However, up to 70 percent of these infections could be prevented through correct hand hygiene measures and other practices, as a recent WHO report shows [2].

Knowledge is power: more awareness through World Hand Hygiene Day

To raise awareness of the issue among the public – especially the healthcare sector – the WHO calls for World Hand Hygiene Day every year on May 5th. The aim of this year's campaign is to further develop the expertise and skills of healthcare professionals, and deepen their knowledge on various topics – such as surgical hand disinfection or the five moments for hand hygiene. This will be primarily achieved through innovative and effective infection prevention training and improving access to training [1].

Science shows how important it is to continuously raise awareness of the correct implementation of and compliance with hand hygiene. In 2018, for example, a long-term study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing showed that regular repetition of training and feedback improves the hand hygiene compliance (HHC) of healthcare professionals by over 10 percent [3]. Another study from 2021 even showed how twice-yearly training not only improved HHC, but also reduced the rate of HAI [4].

A group of nursing staff having a discussion.

Promoting skin health

Nurse in surgical scrubs disinfects her hands.

When it comes to educating people about hand hygiene, most people immediately think of mnemonic bridges for the duration of hand washing or recommendations for the correct use of hand disinfectants – topics we have already covered on this blog several times. But there is more to it.

Skin care also plays an important role in educating people on hand hygiene. Cracked skin can contribute to the colonization of microorganisms, which is why protecting and caring for your hands is also very important. It is particularly important that skin-friendly hand disinfectants, such as Sterillium®, are used. These skin-friendly disinfectants counteract chapped skin, ensuring optimum effectiveness against pathogens.

Improving hand hygiene together

Whether it is about choosing the right product, knowing the recommended duration of hand disinfection, or remembering the 5 moments of hand hygiene, this year's World Hand Hygiene Day makes it clear that knowledge transfer is a continuous process that thrives on repetition.

Let's use the WHOs day of action to raise awareness of the importance of hand hygiene in the healthcare sector – in hospitals, doctor's offices or within our own circle of friends. You can also share your commitment online using the hashtags #HandHygiene, #SaveLivesCleanYourHands and #MissionInfectionPrevention.

Want to know more about World Hand Hygiene Day? Read about the official WHO campaign here. You can find information about the campaign day as well as about the HARTMANN training platform and product range on our website.

WHO information poster for World Hand Hygiene Day 2024


[1] WHO / World Hand Hygiene Day 2024

[2] WHO / WHO launches first ever global report on infection prevention and control

[3] Hoffmann M, et al. (2018) Interventions to increase hand hygiene compliance in a tertiary university hospital over a period of 5 years: An iterative process of information, training and feedback. J Clin Nurs 28: 912-919.

[4] Han C, et al. (2021) Effects of a 4-year intervention on hand hygiene compliance and incidence of healthcare associated infections: a longitudinal study. Infection 49: 977-981.

Use disinfectants safely.
Always read the label and product information before use.

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