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A helping hand may reduce illness in Waikato

A helping hand may reduce illness in Waikato schools

Children in Waikato are learning how to stop the spread of diseases including the common cold, influenza and gastrointestinal infections.

Hands up for Health teaches children how to wash and dry their hands properly as the best way to prevent communicable diseases spreading.

The Waikato District Health Board’s Population Health Service campaign has been taken into Waikato primary and intermediate schools, as well as registered early childhood centres. It is a finalist in the 2008 New Zealand Health Innovation Awards (HIA) and will be competing against 19 other finalists, two of which are also from the Waikato.

As part of the campaign, children are given a special hand-out by public health nurses consisting of a large double-sided hand, two stickers and a fridge magnet. Interactive ‘glo germ’ experiments are used to help children understand that invisible germs are on their hands and that good hand hygiene can remove them.

Population Health Service Clinical Support Coordinator Lindsay Lowe says, “All national pandemic planning in New Zealand emphasises the importance of hand hygiene to stop the spread of communicable diseases. It is also vital to food safety. Studies have found that correct hand hygiene can reduce illness and absenteeism by up to 50 percent.

“This campaign has succeeded in spreading the message about the importance of washing and drying your hands to around 50,000 Waikato households.”

Hands up for Health was funded by the Ministry of Health and ran from July to November 2006. It is currently targeting pre-schoolers and new entrant students.

The HIA are a joint endeavour of the Ministry of Health and ACC. They were started in 2003 to recognise individuals and organisations that have developed new and innovative approaches to delivering better health services.

Further information about the HIA is available online at http://www.healthinnovationawards.co.nz.

This year’s HIA winners will be announced at the HIA expo and gala dinner held on [date] at the Wellington Town Hall.

ENDS

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