Handwashing before food preparation and child feeding: a missed opportunity for hygiene promotion

December 13, 2013

Enteric diseases are often caused by poor hygiene and can contribute to stunting. In Bangladesh preparing food, serving food, feeding children, and eating food with bare hands is a common practice, yet most handwashing promotion has focused on fecal contact. There is limited understanding of the determinants of handwashing with soap around food preparation and before child feeding. This study collected quantitative and qualitative data on handwashing linked to child feeding to integrate handwashing promotion into a young child complementary feeding program. Most participants stated that the community knew the importance of handwashing with soap before food preparation and feeding a child, but had not developed the habit. Observations showed no handwashing with soap at these key times; sometimes hands were rinsed with water only. Most participants cited the unavailability of soap and water near the cooking place as a barrier to handwashing before food preparation. Most caregivers ranked nurturing messages as the best motivator to encourage handwashing with soap. An integrated intervention should include having soap and water available near the food preparation area and should use nurturing themes to encourage habitual handwashing with soap.