Patient Safety Awareness: Hand Hygiene

Improving handwashing and hand sanitizing in community settings, such as schools, offices and restaurants, is a key strategy to prevent the transmission of illness and infection. Many diseases and conditions are spread in the community because people do not wash their hands during key times with soap and water or, when soap and water are not available, they do not use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. During Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 10–16, 2019), we are pleased to highlight our partnership with GOJO and Staples that is aimed at improving hand hygiene in communities.

This current phase of the partnership, first announced in October 2018, has two key goals. First, the partnership aims to improve hand hygiene in healthcare and community settings and will include a new hand hygiene campaign to improve hand hygiene habits in the community. A full suite of educational materials about the importance of hand hygiene in communities will be available this fall. The second goal of this phase will be to refine and extend the Clean Hands Count campaign.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can help yourself and others in your community stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food;
  • Before eating food;
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound;
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing;
  • After using the toilet;
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet; 
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste; and 
  • After touching garbage.

If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean your hands.

We are grateful to GOJO and Staples for their partnership on this critical health issue, and we look forward to working together with CDC to improve the health of our communities through improved hand hygiene.


Rebecca Cook, MPH, is a senior program officer for the CDC Foundation.