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World Hand Hygiene Day marks ten years of the Hand Hygiene New Zealand programme

Infection prevention and control
05 May 2022

As health workers across Aotearoa New Zealand celebrate World Hand Hygiene Day today, they are being recognised by the Health Quality & Safety Commission for their efforts in improving the rates of hand hygiene over the past decade. 

The Hand Hygiene New Zealand programme is a quality improvement initiative to improve hand hygiene practice. All 20 district health boards (DHBs) have been participating since 2012, with private surgical hospitals coming on board in 2017. 

Dr Sally Roberts, the infection prevention and control national clinical lead for the Commission says over the last decade, health workers in hospitals across Aotearoa New Zealand have contributed to increasing the compliance rate from 62 percent to 85 percent, which is a tremendous effort and one that deserves celebrating. 

Practising good hand hygiene is one of the most effective actions to reduce the spread of pathogens and to prevent infection.’ 

Dr Roberts says hand hygiene champions at DHBs and private surgical hospitals have educated, audited and fed back on the hand hygiene performance of their colleagues to embed best practice into the day-to-day delivery of safe healthcare for all New Zealanders. 

‘As we celebrate World Hand Hygiene Day, we also celebrate our hospital workforce for all they have done to drive up compliance rates, which has ultimately reduced the harm and cost of healthcare-associated infections within hospitals over the past ten years.’ 

The theme of the World Health Organization’s Hand Hygiene Day today is ‘Unite for safety: clean your hands’ and encourages health workers at all levels and people accessing health care facilities to work together to ensure good hand hygiene practices are followed. 

‘Regular hand hygiene has been a key public health message during the COVID-19 pandemic and will benefit all whānau in the upcoming winter months, when other respiratory viruses circulate in our community. 

New Zealanders are facing two major infectious diseases threats; the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistant pathogens. Hand hygiene plays a crucial role in preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19 infection, and in preventing the spread of antimicrobial resistant pathogens from one person to another.’ 

Learn more about the Commission's hand hygiene programme here.