Infection prevention and control

The evidence for clean hands

The problem

Each year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected by health care-associated infections (HCAIs). Although HCAI is the most frequent adverse event in health care, its true global burden remains unknown because of the difficulty in gathering reliable data. Understanding and assessing the global burden of HCAI is one of the key areas of work of the IPC global unit. Systematic reviews of the literature have been conducted to identify published studies from both developed and developing countries and highlight the magnitude of the HCAI problem. Some of these results were published online on 10 December 2010 in The Lancet, and are compiled in a comprehensive WHO Report on the burden of endemic health care-associated infection worldwide.

The solution

Most health care-associated infections are preventable through good hand hygiene – cleaning hands at the right times and in the right way. The WHO Guidelines on hand hygiene in health care support hand hygiene promotion and improvement in health-care facilities worldwide and are complemented by the WHO Multimodal hand hygiene improvement strategy, the Guide to implementation, and implementation toolkit, which contain many ready-to-use practical tools. These tools have been field-tested and have yielded new, interesting data on hand hygiene practices and success factors for improvement.

Related resources

Hand hygiene implementation toolkit

Hand Hygiene Self-Assessment Framework

Hand Hygiene in Outpatient and Home-based Care and Long-term Care Facilities