Hand Hygiene Programme launched to combat HFMD in primary schools

Hand Hygiene Programme launched to combat HFMD in primary schools

SINGAPORE - To combat the large number of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) cases this year, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is launching a programme to strengthen the practice of proper hand washing in primary schools.

There were 31,590 reported HFMD cases for the year to date. This is significantly more than the 20,687 cases recorded for the whole of 2011.

Hand washing can reduce cases of infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, flu and HFMD by as much as 45 per cent, HPB said.

While pre-schools are traditionally perceived as places where HFMD is likely to strike, statistics show that about 14 per cent of cases occur in primary schools. It is for this reason that the HPB decided to introduce the Hand Hygiene Programme to primary schools as well.

Under the programme, the 8-step Hand-washing Technique is taught to Student Health Ambassadors, who will then remind their friends and classmates the importance of observing a high standard of personal hygiene.

The Health Ambassadors will also be taught how infectious diseases are spread and socially responsible actions such as covering one's mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

In addition, HPB is partnering Dettol, who is committing $360,000 over the next three years to bring an interactive skit to every primary school to teach children proper hand-washing techniques.

Beyond the classroom, parents also play an important role in hygiene practices, HPB said.

According to an HPB survey last year, about 85 per cent of parents were aware of at least two HFMD symptoms.

To up the HFMD awareness levels among parents, HPB will be pushing out advertorials, editorials, radio advertisements, phone text messages as well as messages on HPB's Facebook page and Twitter feed.

In addition, HPB will also work with parent support groups to provide health prompters for parents to place conveniently around the home.

HPB hopes to have the Hand Hygiene Programme reach out to 200 primary schools over the next three years.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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