Susan Sheldon

Project title: Can Hand Hygiene and Sanitation Effectively be Taught to Children and Adults?

Degree: MPH | Program: Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2006 | Faculty advisor: William E. Daniell


The overall goal of this study was to shift some of the focus of environmental education to prevention, and away from the current practice of assessing damage to people and the environment. This study arose from an earlier plan to teach families to avoid toxic substances by consuming organic produce, a plan that failed because “It took three classes before the kids were consistently washing their hands”. The successful outcome, getting students to actually wash their hands, was overlooked initially.

Hand washing is very basic and concrete; in retrospect, avoiding toxins is probably too abstract to be presented in this setting. Even young children can recognize that if they have dirt or microorganisms (germs) on their hands, these contaminants can be ingested directly or following transfer to their food. As public health agencies become increasingly alarmed by the possibility of influenza pandemic, data are emerging that hand washing is a very effective means of preventing the spread of disease. Consequently, what was initially viewed as a failure in toxics education became a success in terms of infectious disease prevention.

Taken from the beginning of thesis.