Developing and promoting hygiene in home and everyday life to meet 21st Century needs

Since 1997 IFH has been developing Targeted Hygiene, an approach based on scientifically validated risk management approaches developed by the food and pharmaceutical industries since the 1960s to control microbial risks. It means focusing hygiene practices at the times (moments) and in the places as needed to protect us from becoming exposed to harmful microbes. If we are not exposed we cannot be infected! This approach acknowledges the shortcomings of “C20th hygiene” which focuses on elimination of “dirt”, assumed to be the main source of harmful microbes.

The following web areas contain materials which IFH have produced to support the development and promotion of Targeted Hygiene.

In 2021, a group of 18 global hygiene experts published a consensus report on the need to improve public frontline hygiene behaviour to meet current and ongoing needs, and ensure sustainable use of resources.

The report centres around the principles of risk assessment and risk management which means focusing hygiene practices at the times (moments) and in the places as needed to prevent us becoming exposed to harmful microbes. If we are not exposed we cannot be infected. This approach, known as Targeted Hygiene recognises the inadequacy of C20th approaches to hygiene based on public belief that, by maintaining “cleanliness” by regular cleaning and disinfection, deep cleaning and “frequent” handwashing it is possible to “keep” ourselves and our homes hygienic.

The report makes calls to action to refocus attention of politicians, healthcare professionals and scientists, and ensure that public hygiene behaviour is recognised as an equal and interdependent partner in controlling the burden of infectious diseases and tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It also offers workable solutions to achieve this.

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Targeted Hygiene is an holistic approach which focuses hygiene practices at the times (the key moments) when harmful microbes are most likely to spread in order to break the chain of infection. It is applicable to all types of infections including foodborne and other intestinal infections, respiratory infections, skin infections etc. It focuses on hygiene as the public experience it, as a set of interrelated, interdependent actions performed throughout daily life.

This approach communicates hygiene actions in the way the public need it, firstly knowing “WHEN” to act e.g after using the toilet etc, secondly “WHERE” to act e.g hands, food contact surfaces etc and finally HOW to act e.g cleaning, disinfection, wearing masks etc.

This material is designed to enable the public, and those who communicate with the public, to understand how to practice Targeted Hygiene in our homes and everyday lives in public spaces.

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This animated YouTube explains the principles of Targeted Hygiene and how to put this risk management approach to hygiene into practice in our homes and everyday lives. It shows that good hygiene is not about keeping our homes (or our workplaces or schools or public spaces) looking clean and free from dirt, it’s about what we do at the times in our daily lives when cleanliness matters to prevent the spread of infection.

Thus 30 sec YouTube produced by AISE, the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance products, summarises the 9 key moments in our daily lives where hygiene is most important, and the places where we need to practice hygiene at each of these moments to prevent the spread of infection.

This is a video of the presentation given by Professor Sally Bloomfield, Chairman of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH), at the UK Infection Prevention Society Meeting in Liverpool, September 2021. It presents the key findings of the IFH 2021 white paper and the 2021 IFH AISE report as detailed above.

This 2020/1 report evaluates how household hygiene is changing to meet 21st century needs. Growing awareness of the need for effective targeted hygiene offers significant opportunities to develop novel hygiene products which maximize protection against infection with sustainable use of resources.

The report centres around the principles of Targeted Hygiene, based on risk assessment and risk management, which argue that, to be effective and sustainable, hygiene practices need to be focussed at the times (moments) and in the places that matter to break the chain of infection and reduce the risk of exposure to harmful microbes. The report also contains results of a pan-European poll (4500 people, 25 EU countries) which indicate that, although consumers’ actions are to some extent guided by their perception of risk, there was limited understanding of what are key risk situations, and when (and where) hygiene is needed.

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A key issue which COVID-19 has highlighted is the importance of hygiene in shared use of public spaces. To remain open, offices, restaurants, shops and supermarkets have to implement strategies to make their facilities so-called “COVID secure”. Despite attempts to promote a targeted approach (social distancing, ventilation, masks, hands, contact surfaces), strategies illustrate an ongoing belief that untargeted, “deep cleaning” can make a public space “COVID secure”. There is a lack of awareness that safety depends on whether the public are adopting hygienic behaviours in public spaces. Facility managers are dependent on the public to keep facilities COVID-19 secure, and need to pay equal attention to enabling and encouraging the public to practice effective hygiene.

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