Cochrane Summaries

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Strategies to encourage hand washing can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by about one third

Ejemot-Nwadiaro RI, Ehiri JE, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA
Published Online: 
15 February 2012

Diarrhoea is a serious global public health problem, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization estimates that over three million episodes occur each year, with many people dying, especially children aged less than five years in low- and middle-income countries. Persistent diarrhoea can also contribute to malnutrition, reduced resistance to infections, and sometimes impaired growth and development. The organisms causing diarrhoea can be transmitted from infected faeces to people through food and water, person-to-person contact, or direct contact. Hand washing after defecation and handling faeces, and before preparing and eating food can reduce the risk of diarrhoea. This review looked at trials of interventions to increase the use of hand washing in institutions in high-income countries and in communities in low- or middle-income countries, and found many of the interventions like educational programmes, leaflets, and discussions to be effective.

This record should be cited as: 
Ejemot-Nwadiaro RI, Ehiri JE, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing for preventing diarrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004265. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004265.pub2
Assessed as up to date: 
5 November 2007