Shock and shame: Graphic messages increase hand washing compliance

Mar 15, 2011

Graphic messages and reminders that use a shock-and-shame approach may get more people to wash their hands, according to a Kansas State University professor and his colleagues.

"Those 'Employees Must Wash Hands' signs in bathrooms may not be the most effective reminder," said Doug Powell, professor of food safety at K-State. "We wanted a comprehensive review of what others had done, and combined this with our own work on messages that lead to behavior change. We weren't interested in self-reported surveys where everyone says they always wash their hands, but studies based on observed increases in compliance."

Powell worked with Casey Jacob, a former K-State research assistant in the department of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, and Sarah Wilson, formerly of the University of Guelph. Their review of techniques to improve hand washing behavior was just published in the journal Critical Public Health.

The review was conducted as background for several ongoing experiments involving Powell and colleagues to increase hand washing rates in cafeterias, restaurants, hospitals, veterinary clinics and petting zoos. The team has previously designed hand washing campaigns at K-State involving both shock and shame.

"Social pressure, or shame, has been successfully used, especially within an entire organization," Powell said. "If you were in the bathroom at a restaurant and saw an employee not washing his or her hands, would you say, 'Dude, wash your hands?' The shock approach is designed to get people to 'be the bug' -- just for a moment -- and think about where their hands have been and where they are going to be, especially when around hospitals, or animals. Dangerous move around a lot."

Explore further: Tobacco firms get partial win over claims on smoking effects (Update)

Related Stories

Survey: Hand washing habits lacking

Aug 29, 2006

A survey by the Wayne, N.J., based Lysol Hygiene Council has suggested that 61 percent of U.S. residents lack proper hand washing habits.

Recommended for you

Breastfeeding protects against environmental pollution

May 22, 2015

Living in a city with a high level of vehicle traffic or close to a steel works means living with two intense sources of environmental pollution. However, a study conducted by the UPV/EHU researcher Aitana ...

When it comes to hearing, diet may trump noise exposure

May 22, 2015

Although the old wives' tale about carrots being good for your eyesight has been debunked, University of Florida researchers have found a link between healthy eating and another of your five senses: hearing.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.