On the occasion of Global Handwashing Day 2023, Dettol, in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Global Hygiene Council (GHC), and infectious disease expert Professor Dr. Zamberi Sekawi, joined forces with Watsons for an informative panel discussion. The discussion aimed to share insights on the significance of enhanced hygiene practices and contextualize the global and local public health situations. This collective effort of renowned health experts supports the Ministry of Health’s Madani Afiat program, which aims to encourage more effective hygiene and handwashing habits across Malaysia.
During the panel discussion, it was highlighted that communicable diseases are on the rise, as comprehensive handwashing and hygiene practices, initially adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, have been declining. Yet, sustained handwashing remains the most effective preventive measure. The panel also emphasized that infectious diseases’ prevalence and the impacts of changing climate are growing.
Professor Emerita Elizabeth Scott, Chair of the GHC, pointed out that the devastating effects of infectious diseases on society are increasingly evident. While the COVID-19 pandemic is showing signs of ending, the “silent pandemic” of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues, with AMR being recognized as one of the most significant threats to human health. In 2019, it was estimated that 4.95 million deaths were linked to drug-resistant bacterial infections. If action is not taken to combat AMR, this number could rise to 10 million deaths annually by 2050, with common procedures like caesarean sections becoming riskier.
The GHC acknowledges that practices like handwashing are a readily available means to address AMR by reducing the risk of infection and the need for antibiotics. Hand hygiene can help reduce infections, protecting 1 in 3 children from diarrhea, and it has resulted in a 30% reduction in antibiotic prescriptions for children with respiratory infections. The GHC urges governments and policymakers to elevate the importance of hygiene to protect countless lives.
“In the fight against infectious diseases, good hygiene practices are our first line of defense. Recent global challenges have emphasized the urgency of adhering to these simple yet effective measures. Locally, since 2021, the top five most common infections include COVID-19, Dengue fever, Tuberculosis, food poisoning, and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD), three of which can be mitigated through good hand hygiene. By incorporating good hygiene into our daily routines and promoting its significance within our communities, we can collectively reduce the spread of infectious diseases and build a healthier, more resilient society,” added Prof. Zamberi.
To address this ongoing concern, Dettol, a leading brand in germ protection, has partnered with the MOH to promote better hygiene practices nationwide, aligning with the Madani Afiat program. This collaborative effort aims to advance the brand’s mission of protecting lives, reducing illness burdens, and fostering long-lasting hygiene habits. This effort builds on Dettol’s continuous ‘Hygiene Quest’ curriculum, a public awareness campaign that has engaged 250,000 students to date, with a goal of reaching 4 million students by 2024 to instill effective hygiene habits in school children through the dissemination of essential handwashing information. Through various platforms and on-ground engagement with consumers, this collaboration marks a significant milestone in the brand and the Ministry’s shared commitment to reducing school absenteeism and promoting enduring hygiene habits.
“Good hygiene practices are the foundation of a healthier society. They serve as the primary defense against preventable diseases and play a crucial role in safeguarding public health. By embracing proper hygiene habits, we strengthen 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 in Malaysia and Singapore for Reckitt, expressed her enthusiasm about the event, stating, “We are thrilled to collaborate with key stakeholders and leaders in the health industry. By working closely with these experts, we can provide the public with accurate and comprehensive information on cultivating improved hygiene habits. Hand hygiene is the simplest and most effective way to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, as 80% of germs are spread through the hands, potentially contaminating up to seven surfaces with a single hand. By prioritizing this, we can reduce the burden of illness by offering communities superior solutions to promote behavioral change and sustain hygiene habits.”
To symbolize their commitment to raising awareness about hygiene and to mark Global Handwashing Day, Dettol introduced its first-ever ‘Hygiene Hour’ by illuminating the iconic KL Tower. The brand also dispatched the Dettol Hygiene Crew, a team of dedicated e-hailing motorcyclists, to various communities to deliver essential hygiene kits containing Dettol hand sanitizer to further encourage improved hygiene practices. Additionally, Dettol has partnered with Watsons, the leading health and beauty retailer in Malaysia, to reinforce handwashing and effective hygiene practices across 700 stores with a goal of educating over 500,000 shoppers in six months.
By receiving the Malaysian Book of Records certification at the Global Handwashing Day event for achieving the “Largest Children Participation in a Hand Washing Awareness Session,” Dettol reaffirmed its commitment to promoting hygiene awareness.
“We strongly believe that events like Global Handwashing Day and Hygiene Hour will inspire positive behavioral changes and encourage the adoption of better hygiene and handwashing practices, ultimately shaping a cleaner and healthier future for all,” concluded Tang.