Four little words…Clean care for all

Guest bloggers Claire Kilpatrick and Julie Storr (hand hygiene consultants at the WHO, @safesafersafest) post…

Three little words, behind which lay 40 years of a global aspiration. Health for all. Last year the world recommitted to Alma Ata and renewed the global focus on health as a fundamental human right. In 2019, WHO’s 5 May global hand hygiene campaign evokes the spirit of health for all with its own four words: Clean care for all. How is this relevant to infection prevention and control (IPC) on a day to day basis, particularly for the other 364 days of the year?

Well, we know that a hospital without effective IPC should probably not be called a hospital (borrowing from the water, sanitation and hygiene – WASH – community). We know that IPC strengthens health systems overall, ensures quality health services, and protects people from harm. And because of the global burden of healthcare-associated infections (HCAI), including from antimicrobial resistance (AMR), we know that IPC is a critical part of everything health care, and must absolutely be supported by hand hygiene improvement efforts at the right moment. That is why the WHO campaign exists, to maintain focus on hand hygiene (at the very least on one day in the year, every year!). IPC exists in an understandably crowded clinical and campaigning space, where so many things, including what often feel like competing initiatives, are circulating. All of these “things” support the achievement of health as the desired outcome for patients. IPC, including hand hygiene, warrants a place at the top table, because it supports the other initiatives in achieving health for all.

So, we know all of this, but do we convince others enough that this is so? We believe that the role that IPC plays in the health for all agenda remains largely undersold, despite previous attempts to do so by ourselves and others. Working in global health we know the power of data and that sometimes in IPC we’re hampered by a lack of good data. If we jump back to our colleagues in the WASH community, a new report was released recently packed with data that helps to paint a picture of the outrageous situation in health care in many parts of the world in relation to the lack of water, sanitation and yes, hygiene (including hand hygiene). And this 5 May – WHO is asking anyone in any health care facility in the world to complete a simple survey that will add even more to the global pool of knowledge. These data will nicely complement the WASH report and be of value to us all. We urge colleagues to grasp the opportunity to use these evidence-based and validated assessment tools that can drive improvement within a succinct process.

In a soon-to-be launched Lancet Global Health piece (by Benedetta Allegranzi and colleagues) there will be another attempt to retell the IPC story in a more global health frame as it relates to the lives and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere in the world. We should all be inspired by the global movement to achieve health for all through clean care for all.

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