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Clean hands leading to safer health care for half the world’s population


10 NOVEMBER 2006 | GENEVA -- Half the people in the world can look forward to cleaner and safer care and a lowered risk of becoming ill with an infection as a result of their health care. That is because they live in countries whose governments have pledged to become part of a worldwide movement to address health-care associated infections under the Global Patient Safety Challenge: Clean Care is Safer Care.

A total of 22 countries representing 55% of the world’s population have signed on to the Global Patient Safety Challenge since it was launched by the World Health Organization World Alliance for Patient Safety in October 2005.

On 10 November, 13 more countries — Australia, Belgium, Bhutan, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Germany, Kenya, Finland, Luxembourg, Singapore, Sudan, Uganda and the United States— will pledge commitment to the initiative. Seven countries and regions — Bangladesh, Hong Kong SAR, China, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Spain— will report on their first year of achievements.

At any given moment some 1.4 million people worldwide are ill because of infections acquired in hospitals. In developed countries the toll is 5% to 10% of patients. In some developing countries, as many as a quarter of patients may be affected.

“We can reduce these numbers dramatically, and more and more countries are showing they are ready to take action. With the help of WHO and other partners these countries are laying the foundations for patients everywhere to receive cleaner, safer care”, said Dr Anders Nordstrom, Acting Director-General of WHO.

One of the most powerful approaches to fighting health care-related infection is also the simplest: healthcare providers need to clean their hands every time they see a patient.

Many countries have already substantially improved hand hygiene practices among health professionals. During a recent four-month hand hygiene campaign in Switzerland, for example, compliance with good practices increased 25% among doctors and nurses working in two cantonal hospitals. Based on the results of that study it has been estimated that the Swiss could avert 17 000 nosocomial infections each year if hospitals nationwide achieved comparable improvements. “With 33 countries committing to ’Clean Care is Safer Care’ over the last year, we have proof of the global political commitment to dramatically reduce deaths and suffering from infections acquired in health care facilities. I urge countries throughout the world to follow the example of those who have already committed to ”Clean Care is Safer Care" Sir Liam Donaldson, Chair of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety and Chief Medical Officer for England.

Hand hygiene remains the primary measure to reduce health care-associated infection and the spread of antimicrobial resistance, stressed Professor Didier Pittet, Leader of the Global Patient Safety Challenge and Director of the Infection Control Programme at Geneva’s University Hospitals. “It enhances the safety of care across all settings, from complex, modern hospitals to simple health posts”.

Editor’s note

Progress report on 22 countries participating in “Clean Care is Safer Care”:

Bahrain, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Hong Kong SAR, China, Malaysia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are running hospital hand hygiene campaigns and made an alcohol hand rub available at the point of care to ensure hand hygiene can occur quickly and easily.

The Netherlands, the Russian Federation, and United Arab Emirates have set up national committees on infection control.

Bangladesh, Belarus, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, the Philippines, Slovenia and Tajikistan recently committed their countries to addressing healthcare-associated infection.


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