Handwashing and Education Level in Rural Ghana

Samuel Thomas1, Alison Taylor1, Linnea Fletcher2, Kory Fleming2, Rachel Morse3, Amy Durstler4

University of Utah School of Medicine1, University of Utah Division of Public Health2, University of Utah Division of Occupational Therapy3, University of Utah4

Background: Hand washing is a key component of the prevention of infectious disease and has been emphasized in Ghana through the Public-private Partnership to Promote Handwashing (2004-2006)(http://www.globalhandwashingday.org/ppph_in_ghana.asp). However, it is not known if this campaign had an impact on women who live in rural communities, especially those who are less educated. A Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice survey was undertaken in several rural Ghanaian communities to determine if an association exists between the education levels of mothers and their hand washing behaviors.

Methods: A descriptive cross sectional survey of 178 individuals was performed within several communities affiliated with the Barekuma Collaborative Community Development Project. The individuals were interviewed in July 2012. The matriarch of each household was asked a 40 question survey regarding her knowledge, attitudes, and practice toward water, sanitation, and hand washing.

Results: Out of the 178 individuals that were surveyed, only 25% of the people washed their hands with soap before eating and only 12% of the people washed their hands with soap before cooking. In contrast, 76% of the individuals said that they washed their hands with soap after using the toilet. Of those that washed their hands before eating and those that washed their hands before cooking, there was a discrepancy between the reasons why they felt it was important to wash your hands with soap and how they thought diarrhea can be prevented. There was little discrepancy between those who wash their hands before eating and those that don’t in reference to why it is important to wash you hands after using the toilet.

Conclusions: Many of the villagers surveyed had a basic understanding of germ theory.  However, there seems to be disconcordance with application of this knowledge into their daily hygiene habits.  Therefore, future efforts should be aimed at educating the population on proper hand-hygiene.

Author contact: Samuel.thomas@hsc.utah.edu