Canadians are not practicing what they preach when it comes to hygiene

New Canadian-based Health & Hygiene Council, chaired by Dr. Donald Low, is created to address gaps in knowing versus doing

Toronto, ON October 8, 2008 – An international survey on hygiene practices has shown that for the third consecutive year, Canada tops the charts when it comes to knowing the importance of infection prevention. Nine out of 10 Canadians (90%)  believe “washing hands regularly” is the most effective way to help protect against catching the flu – more than any other country surveyed and well ahead of Germany who ranked second in this area with 66 per cent. That being said, there is a gap between knowing and doing. 
Canadians know how to protect themselves and stay healthy, but are not following through with action. Only four in ten (37%)  Canadians claim their children always wash their hands before eating and a similar amount said that they did so ‘most’ of the time (44%) .  This is compared to countries such as Malaysia (80%), India (79%) and Italy (76%) in terms of always washing before eating. If Canadian children are not following simple handwashing basics, it is alarming to consider which other health and hygiene practices may be neglected.
As cold and flu season approaches, Canadians need not only be aware of the health threats that have the potential to impact their families, but also how to prepare and protect themselves. It is especially important to model and teach the basics of handwashing. To address this need and other health and hygiene needs across the country, Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Lysol brand products, has provided an educational grant to the newly established Health & Hygiene Council, Canada (HHCC).
The Formation of a Canadian Authority on Health & Hygiene
The aim of the Health & Hygiene Council is to revisit current hygiene practices, identify health and hygiene gaps across the country, offer realistic recommendations to the public around the importance of health and hygiene in the home and community and identify programs and/or solutions that might help fill the gaps identified.
The HHCC brings together leading experts in the field of microbiology, virology, paediatrics, infectious disease, public health and education.  It is chaired by Dr. Donald Low, Microbiologist-in-Chief at Toronto Medical Laboratories/Mount Sinai Hospital, and has representatives from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The inaugural meeting took place June 25, 2008 in Toronto.
“Canadians indicate that they understand the importance of hygiene, although when it comes to following through, they fall short,” says Dr. Low. “Our priority is continued awareness about the important link between hygiene education and the health of Canadians, and the two most important areas for discussion are hand hygiene and ensuring young children are taught the basics. The HHCC will be unveiling a number of recommendations and tactics in 2008 and 2009 to tackle this knowledge gap in Canada.”

Key Health & Hygiene Issues Facing Canadians
According to the HHCC, hygiene standards are different across age groups, provinces and organizations. As a result, many hygiene issues are being under-prioritized. Hand-washing and surface disinfection are two issues that are currently neglected by community leaders and care providers, along with food safety, immunization and proper use of antibiotics. Further, their enormous importance in the prevention and reduction of diseases such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infections is not being effectively communicated and/or understood. Since children are a sensitive portion of the population, hygiene standards for daycares and elementary schools were highlighted as a focus for the Council in 2008/2009. Lessons learned by children at school are often adopted into the household.
Having agreed on these fundamental issues, the HHCC developed a number of recommendations rooted in education and information-sharing on the topics of hygiene and disinfection. They are currently considering the following:

A ‘State of the nation’ hygiene study focusing on health and hygiene practices and gaps in daycares and elementary schools.

Programs that may be considered to fill in the gap include:

  • An educational package for parents with children in daycares/school
  • Train-the-trainer programs
  • A detailed resource comparing common household disinfectants and the specific germs, viruses and illnesses they can help counter
“We recognized the need for an expert advisory group in Canada to deal with issues that are specific to Canadians,” says Adonis Souloglou, Marketing Director, Reckitt Benckiser Canada Inc. “We also recognized the need for a Council that would go one step further and convert recommendations into actions and we look forward to seeing their plans in the coming months.” 
HHCC Practical Home Hygiene Tips

The importance of simple health and hygiene practices cannot be over-emphasized.  For this reason, the Council has developed top-line recommendations for Canadians to follow.
HHCC member Dr. Caroline Quach states, “As a mother, I’ve taught my children how and when to wash their hands; I keep their vaccinations up to date; and, I try to keep my kitchen as safe as possible. These simple steps go a long way to promote health for my family and the people they encounter on a daily basis.”
Simple measures such as increasing the frequency and efficiency of hand washing and surface disinfection where food is prepared will undoubtedly improve standards of home hygiene, and ameliorate levels of contamination.  This is particularly essential in homes with children.
Did you know…
Germs love wet surfaces?
  • Keep all surfaces as clean and dry as possible – germs such as bacteria are less likely to multiply on dry surfaces

You should also remember to wash your hands:

  • Before feeding children or giving any medication
  • Before putting on contact lenses
  • After handling pets
  • Before and after handling any raw food
The vast majority of food-borne illnesses occur because food was not handled or cooked properly and 80% of the cases happen in the home?
  • Public health experts estimate that there are 11 to 13 million cases of food-borne illness in Canada every year.
    Always cook food at proper temperatures
  • Refrigerate foods promptly and keep your refrigerator at 4 C degrees or below

For more information, please contact:

Ethan Pigott
Hill & Knowlton Canada
416 413-4744

Leigha Cotton
Hill & Knowlton Canada
416 413-4757