- Jeff - The majority of American students aren't complying
with basic H1N1 preventive measures, not even washing their hands. This
is really pathetic, especially for University students who are supposedly
the cream of the crop. --Patty
- As H1N1 Looms, Study Shows Students Aren't
- By Benjamin Chapman, Matt Shipman
- North Carolina State University
- As public health experts warn of potential widespread
outbreaks of H1N1 flu this school year, a new study from North Carolina
State University shows that students do not comply with basic preventative
measures as much as they think do. In other words, the kids aren't washing
- "Hand washing is a significant preventative measure
for many communicable diseases, from respiratory diseases like H1N1 to
foodborne illness agents, such as norovirus," says Dr. Ben Chapman,
assistant professor of family and consumer sciences and food safety extension
specialist at NC State. The new study, which examined student compliance
with hand hygiene recommendations during an outbreak of norovirus at a
university in Ontario, finds that only 17 percent of students followed
posted hand hygiene recommendations but that 83 percent of students
reported that they had been in compliance. Norovirus causes gastrointestinal
problems, including vomiting and diarrhea. Every year there are 30 to 40
outbreaks of norovirus on university campuses, affecting thousands of students.
- Chapman, who co-authored the research, says this is the
first study to observe student hygiene behavior in the midst of an outbreak.
Previous studies examined self-reporting data after an outbreak and
the new research shows that the self-reporting data may be inaccurate.
- "Typically, health officials put up posters and
signs and rely on self-reporting to determine whether these methods are
effective," Chapman says. "And people say they are washing their
hands more. But, as it turns out, that's not true.
- "The study shows that while health authorities may
give people the tools we think they need to limit the spread of an outbreak,
the information we're giving them is not compelling enough to change their
behavior. Basically, it doesn't work. But we do it again with every outbreak,
and we're doing it now with H1N1."
- Chapman says the study shows that health officials need
to target specific audiences, such as students in a particular dorm or
who eat at a particular cafeteria, and tailor their information to those
audiences. For example, telling them where the nearest washrooms are, or
pointing out where hand sanitizer units are located. "The more specific
the information is for an audience, the better off you are," Chapman
- Chapman adds that health authorities also need to use
language appropriate to their target audience. "For example, don't
refer to something as a 'gastrointestinal illness,'" he says, "instead,
tell them 'this could make you puke' or 'dude, wash your hands.' The idea
is to craft compelling messages that create discussion in that audience.
Make them talk about it."
- Chapman also says that health officials should take advantage
of social media, such as text messaging and Facebook, to raise awareness.
"If your audience consists of students," he explains, "you
should use media that students use.
- "Campuses need to expect outbreaks will happen and
plan accordingly. Have the response tools in hand."
- The study, "University Students' Hand Hygiene Practice
During a Gastrointestinal Outbreak in Residence: What They Say They Do
and What They Actually Do," was co-authored by Chapman, Dr. Douglas
Powell of Kansas State University and Brae Surgeoner, a former graduate
student at the University of Guelph. The study was published in the September
issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.
- Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.
- "University Students' Hand Hygiene Practice During
a Gastrointestinal Outbreak in Residence: What They Say They Do and What
They Actually Do"
- Authors: Brae V. Surgeoner, University of Guelph; Benjamin
J. Chapman, North Carolina State University; Douglas A. Powell, Kansas
- Published: September 2009, Journal of Environmental Health
- Abstract: Published research on outbreaks of gastrointestinal
illness has focused primarily on the results of epidemiological and clinical
data collected postoutbreak; little research has been done on actual preventative
practices during an outbreak. In this study, the authors observed student
compliance with hand hygiene recommendations at the height of a suspected
norovirus outbreak in a university residence in Ontario, Canada. Data on
observed practices was compared to postoutbreak self-report surveys administered
to students to examine their beliefs and perceptions about hand hygiene.
Observed compliance with prescribed hand hygiene recommendations occurred
17.4% of the time. Despite knowledge of hand hygiene protocols and low
compliance, 83.0% of students indicated that they practiced correct hand
hygiene during the outbreak. To proactively prepare for future outbreaks,
a current and thorough crisis communications and management strategy, targeted
at a university student audience and supplemented with proper hand washing
tools, should be enacted by residence administration.
- Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural
Economics Univ of West Indies Please visit my "Emerging Diseases"
message board at: http://www.emergingdisease.org/phpbb/index.php Also
my new website: http://drpdoyle.tripod.com/ Zhan le Devlesa tai
sastimasa Go with God and in Good Health