Hand-washing has been widely accepted worldwide as a cost-effective intervention to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. However, despite its proven effectiveness, hand-washing practices have been found to be poor in developing nations.
As children are vulnerable to communicable diseases, a study, aimed at assessing hand-washing knowledge and practices among primary schoolchildren in municipal schools of Mumbai, was carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The study was carried out among randomly selected children — 2,283 students were interviewed regarding socio-demographic characteristics, history of illness and hand-washing knowledge and practices.
The results showed there was a history of illness and absenteeism in the past one month in more than half the children (54%) from the date of interview. Of those who remained absent, 81.6% reported absenteeism due to illness.
According to the study, 34.2% children were unaware about the health-related consequences of not practising hand-washing like sickness and germs. When asked about when to wash hands, 75.5% respondents mentioned before eating, after eating (51.1%), after toilet use (18.1%) and after playing (11.7%). Other reasons like after touching garbage and dirt or after coming from outdoors were mentioned by very few children (9.5%).
Majority of children (91.5%) reported using soap for hand-washing. Hand-washing before eating food was practised by around 59% children, the study found.