The Global Hygiene Council (GHC) has released a report calling for urgent action to prioritize hygiene in home and community settings in pandemic preparedness plans. The council is urging governments and policymakers to recognize the critical role hygiene plays in protecting millions of lives.
The GHC report, titled “Making Hygiene Matter,” emphasizes the importance of home and community hygiene in reducing the incidence of infections and prevalence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). In 2019, 4.95 million deaths were associated with AMR. Without action, this figure could rise to 10 million deaths annually by 2050. As the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of ending, the ongoing ‘silent pandemic’ of AMR continues to pose a significant threat to human health.
Elizabeth Scott, GHC Chair and Microbiologist and Professor Emerita at Simmons University in Boston, USA, stresses the need for urgent action to safeguard public health. She states that good hygiene is a cost-effective, accessible solution to prevent infections and save lives. The report outlines four pillars for change: sustaining hygiene awareness in everyday settings, reducing the need for antibiotics through hygiene practices, recognizing the economic benefits of effective hygiene, and driving behavior change to establish strong hygiene habits.
Secondary benefits of increased hygiene practices during the COVID-19 pandemic have been observed. A decrease in prevalence of other diseases, including seasonal flu and common illnesses in children, has been noted. Scientists confirm a ‘clear consensus’ that this decline was due to human behavior and hygiene-based mitigation measures.
The GHC is urging governments, policymakers, and health authorities to adopt and implement the report’s recommendations when responding to existing and future infectious disease threats, including AMR.