World Hand Hygiene Day - Clean Hands Save Lives

5 May 2011 | Infection Prevention & Control

‘Save lives – clean your hands’ is the theme for this year’s World Hand Hygiene Day on 5 May, part of a global initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) to improve hand hygiene in health care.

“It sounds really basic to tell people to have clean hands but we know that lots of patients get infections while receiving health care,” says Commission Chief Executive Dr Janice Wilson.

“Making sure hands are clean is a crucial part of ensuring quality and patient safety in our hospitals.”

WHO has identified 5 key moments for when health workers should perform hand hygiene: 

  1. before patient contact (e.g. before washing a patient)
  2. before a procedure (e.g. before giving an injection or changing a dressing)
  3. after a procedure or body fluid exposure (e.g. if a patient vomits)
  4. after patient contact
  5. after contact with patient surroundings

WHO says millions of patients around the world are affected by healthcare-associated infections (HCAI), and many of these could be prevented by good hand hygiene.  These infections contribute to patients’ deaths and disability, promote resistance to antibiotics, complicate the delivery of patient care, and impose extra costs on countries’ health systems.

“These types of infections are under-reported in New Zealand but are starting to appear in our annual serious and sentinel event reporting,” says Dr Wilson.

“We know that they happen here as well as overseas, and we are pleased a number of district health boards are promoting World Hand Hygiene Day. This is about reducing the chances of patients acquiring infections while they are in hospital or other health care settings.”

More information about the hand hygiene campaign is available at the WHO website: or on the New Zealand infection control website,

Last updated 19/01/2012