Polling indicates the public has fairly good knowledge of times when hygiene is needed in their homes and everyday life in public spaces, but limited understanding of hygiene risk; this results in omitting some key behaviours and incorrectly applying untargeted behaviours. This poll of 1730 respondents in England aged 18 and over. explores how the public responded to government advice, and information from other sources, to address a specific disease threat, i.e. COVID-19 infection.
Data suggest that the UK public has high level of concern about the importance of hygiene to prevent spread of COVID-19. They had good recall of advice given during the pandemic and were able to identify routes of infection transmission. When asked to identify key times for handwashing, most people (86-90%) identified “after coughing, sneezing etc., before eating food with fingers, after touching contact surfaces and when returning home”, but a similar number also identified using the toilet, food handling and pet handling, despite the fact that government advice does not identify these as risk actions for COVID-19. This suggests they were unable to use their knowledge of how the virus spreads to make informed decisions about when to practice hygiene. Despite government guidance, public practices are still influenced by a conviction that deep cleaning, including non-targeted disinfectant usage on environmental surfaces, gives added protection, leading them to practise additional cleaning and disinfection in situations where there is little benefit.
New insights from public polling, together with the 9 moments Targeted Hygiene approach offers a more robust communications approach to enable the public to make cognitive links between when, where, how and why to practise good hygiene, and in doing so, promote more effective and sustainable behaviours.
Bloomfield SF, Ackerley L 2023 Developing better understanding of hygiene is key to developing hygiene behaviour change in home and everyday life settings. Perspectives in Public Health. Online First, April 22, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1177/17579139231163734 https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/QVU4PZNPPI3AXBFECMG7/full