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J Hosp Infect. 2004 Sep;58(1):1-13.

The Lowbury lecture: behaviour in infection control.

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Infection Control Programme, University of Geneva Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.


The majority of healthcare-associated infections result from cross-transmission related to inappropriate patient-care practices. Improving practices frequently implies modifying healthcare workers' behaviour, a key challenge of today's infection control. To improve healthcare workers' compliance with practices, infection control should learn from the behavioural sciences. Social cognitive models can help to improve our understanding of human behaviour. Cognitive determinants that shape behaviour are acquired through the socialization process and are susceptible to change. Some models have been applied to evaluate predictors of health behaviour but, so far, none have been successfully applied to explain behaviour in the field of infection control. Successful strategies to improve infection control practices result from their multidimensional aspect. Similarly, social models that include several levels of cognitive determinants have more chance of success to explain change in behaviour. Concrete examples applied to infection control issues are presented, including special references to hand hygiene behaviour. The theory of ecological perspective, based on the idea that behaviour is viewed as being affected by and affecting multiple levels of influence, and that it both influences and is influenced by the social environment, seems promising to explain behaviour modification. Studies are needed to assess the key determinants of infection control practices and behaviour promotion among the different populations of healthcare workers, and to implement and evaluate the impact of the different components of multimodal programmes to promote optimal infection control practices.

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