by Lisa Heykal
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Global Handwashing Day 2023, was celebrated by the collaboration between Dettol and the Ministry of Health (MOH), Global Hygiene Council (GHC) along with the Infectious Disease expert Professor Dr. Zamberi Sekawi and Watsons who came together for an informative panel discussion to exchange insights about the significance of practicing good hygiene. This joint effort by key health experts is aimed at supporting the Ministry of Health’s Madani Afiat program in encouraging the adoption of more effective hygiene and handwashing habits across Malaysia. 

The panel discussed various topics surrounding hygiene, it was determined that communicable diseases are on the rise as comprehensive handwashing and hygiene practices adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic are diminishing despite sustained handwashing being the most effective preventative measure. It was also mentioned that the spread of infectious disease and climate change is intensifying by the day.

Professor Emerita Elizabeth Scott, Chair of the GHC, reported that the devastating impact of infectious diseases on society has never been more evident. As the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of ending, the ‘silent pandemic’ of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is ongoing, with AMR recognized as one of the largest threats to human health. It is estimated that, in 2019, the deaths of 4.95 million people were associated with drug-resistant bacterial infections. If no action is taken to stop the spread of AMR, this could rise to 10 million deaths a year by 2050 with common procedures such as cesarean sections carrying greater risks.

The GHC recognises that hygiene practices such as handwashing, demonstrate an accessible means to tackling AMR through reducing the risk of infection and the need for antibiotics. Hand hygiene can help to reduce the spread of infections protecting 1 in 3 children affected by diarrhoea and has shown a 30% reduction in antibiotic prescriptions for children with respiratory infections. With that in mind, the GHC urges governments and policymakers to elevate hygiene’s importance to protect millions of lives.

“In the battle against infectious diseases, good hygiene practices are our first line of defense. The recent global challenges posed by infectious diseases have underscored the urgency of adhering to these basic yet effective measures. Locally, the top five most common infections since 2021 are COVID-19, Dengue fever, Tuberculosis, food poisoning, and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD), three of which can be mitigated through the practice of good hand hygiene. By incorporating good hygiene into our daily routines and promoting its importance within our communities, we can collectively mitigate the spread of infectious diseases and build a healthier, more resilient society,” added Prof Zamberi.

Dettol and MOH came together and addressed the ongoing concern to increase the practice of effective hygiene across the nation, in line with the MADANI Afiat Program specially designed by the MOH to distribute essential disease prevention and hygiene information to the public through community outreach initiatives.

“Good hygiene practices are the cornerstone of a healthier society. They form the first line of defense against preventable diseases and play a vital role in safeguarding public health. By embracing proper hygiene habits, we fortify our collective resilience, nurturing a safer and more vibrant community for all,” said Dr. Ho Bee Kiau from the MOH.

Tiffany Tang, Marketing Director for Health, Malaysia, and Singapore for Reckitt, expressed her enthusiasm about the event, stating, “We are delighted to be able to work with key stakeholders and leaders in the health industry. By working closely with these experts, we can offer the public accurate and comprehensive information about cultivating improved hygiene habits. Hand hygiene is the simplest and most effective way to curb the spread of infectious diseases as 80% of germs are spread through the hands and up to seven surfaces can be potentially contaminated via a single hand. By prioritizing this, we can reduce the burden of illness by offering communities superior solutions to incite behavioral change, motivating sustained hygiene habits.”

As a mark to their commitment and collaboration in promoting hygiene awareness, Dettol introduced its inaugural “Hygiene Hour” by illuminating the iconic KL Tower and dispatched the Dettol Hygiene Crew, dedicated e-hailing motorcyclists to various communities, delivering essential hygiene kits composed of Dettol hand sanitizer and more. The brand has also partnered with Watsons, Malaysia’s No.1 online and offline Health and Beauty Retailer. 

Pledging the brand’s dedication to fostering a healthier Malaysia. Dettol was also awarded the Malaysian Book of Records certification at the Global Handwashing Day event after achieving the Largest Children Participation in A Handwashing Awareness Session which saw 4865 school children join the initiative.

“We firmly believe that platforms such as the Global Handwashing Day event and Hygiene Hour will encourage positive behavioral change and inspire the implementation of better hygiene and handwashing practices, influencing a cleaner, healthier future for all,” concluded Tang.

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