International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information
International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information

Developing public understanding of hygiene is key to changing public hygiene behaviour

It seems clear that, getting people to change hygiene behaviour depends not only on promoting hygiene practice but also changing public understanding of hygiene and restoring their confidence in hygiene.

We need the public to believe that infection doesn’t “happen by accident or misfortune” – it is preventable in many cases. If we believe we have no control over whether we get an infection, we will not take measures to control it. We also need to persuade people of the direct benefits of hygiene to them as individuals e.g. avoiding loss of income, costs of childcare, disruption of family leisure activities, etc. In the last year, IFH has been working to find out more about consumers’ understanding of hygiene and hygiene issues.

In 2022 IFH/RSPH carried out a poll of 1730 respondents in England to explore how the public responded to advice on preventing spread of COVID-19 infection. Data suggest the UK public has high level of concern about the importance of hygiene to prevent spread of COVID-19, but suggests they were unable to use their knowledge of how the virus spreads to decide when to practice hygiene. The data also shows that public practices are still influenced by a conviction that deep cleaning can protect them against infection, leading them to practise additional cleaning in situations where there is little benefit. The paper shows how Targeted Hygiene approach offers a communications approach which is designed to enable the public to understand when, where, how and why to practise good hygiene, and in doing so, promote more effective and sustainable behaviours.

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.