IJERPH, Vol. 18, Pages 12535: Association between Handwashing Behavior and Infectious Diseases among Low-Income Community Children in Urban New Delhi, India: A Cross-Sectional Study (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
Diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections (RI) are two leading causes of childhood mortality in low and middle-income countries. Effective handwashing at critical time-points may mitigate these diseases. However, there is a lack of published data investigating this association in school-aged children in India. This study is part of a larger prospective handwashing intervention study in a low-income community in New Delhi, India examining the associations between handwashing behavior and diarrhea and RI in schoolchildren. This current study reports the findings of the baseline survey administered to 272 mother–child dyads. Children aged 8–12 years, and their mothers, were recruited from six schools. A baseline questionnaire was used to collect sociodemographic data, handwash behavior, and mother-reported recent diarrhea and RI incidence among the children. Handwashing before and after preparing food, after defecation, and after cleaning dishes significantly reduced the odds of diarrhea by over 70%, and of RI by over 56%. Using a clean cloth after handwashing lowered odds of diarrhea and RI by 72% and 63% respectively. Around 60% of the participants believed that handwashing could prevent diarrhea and RI in their children. There was a low prevalence of handwashing at critical time-points and a poor perception regarding handwashing benefits. To improve handwashing behavior, hygiene promotion programs need to understand what motivates and hinders handwashing in vulnerable populations.