World Hand Hygiene Day Date in the current year: May 5, 2024

World Hand Hygiene Day World Hand Hygiene Day (WHHD) is observed annually on May 5. It is a global awareness campaign that was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise the profile of the importance of clean hands for saving lives.

Although handwashing has been a central component of personal hygiene and an important cultural and religious custom for thousands of years, the importance of hand hygiene in healthcare settings has been widely recognized for less than two centuries. The first person to make the link between handwashing and patients’ health was Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis.

Often referred to as the “father of hand hygiene” and “savior of mothers”, Semmelweis discovered that hand disinfection could drastically reduce the incidence of childbed fever in obstetrical clinics. In 1847, he instituted a policy of washing hands with a calcium hypochlorite solution in the First Obstetrical Clinic of the Vienna General Hospital where he was working at the time. As a result, the mortality rate in the clinic declined 90%.

A few years later, the founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale implemented handwashing in the hospital where she worked during the Crimean War. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, Nightingale’s improvements in hygiene reduced the death rate from 42% to 2%.

Sadly, the hand hygiene practices introduced and promoted by Semmelweis and Nightingale weren’t widely adopted in their lifetimes. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the importance of hand hygiene for preventing the spread hospital-acquired infections became widely recognized. Following a string of foodborne and health-care associated infections, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the first nationally endorsed hand hygiene guidelines.

Measures to prioritize and improve hand hygiene in healthcare facilities can include educating staff on hand washing, verbal and written reminders to staff to wash their hands before and after tending to patients, increasing the availability of antibacterial soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and creating a workplace culture where healthcare workers lead by example and encourage each other to clean their hands.

World Hand Hygiene Day is part of WHO’s SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands campaign that focuses on raising awareness of the importance of hand hygiene in healthcare and encouraging healthcare workers to improve their hand hygiene in order to prevent the spread of potentially deadly healthcare-associated infections.

The World Hand Hygiene Day campaign is meant to unite all stakeholders (healthcare workers, infection prevention and control practitioners, quality and safety leads, healthcare facility managers, policy makers, and all people who use healthcare services) in promoting hand hygiene campaigns, activities, and programs.

World Hand Hygiene Day should not be confused with Global Handwashing Day. The latter has been observed every October 15 since 2008; it is run by the Global Handwashing Partnership, a coalition of international stakeholders working to improve health and save lives by promoting handwashing with soap.

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World Hand Hygiene Day, international observances, awareness campaigns, World Health Organization, handwashing