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Health Policy Plan. 2007 Jul;22(4):225-33. Epub 2007 May 25.

Health in our hands, but not in our heads: understanding hygiene motivation in Ghana.

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The Hygiene Centre, Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.


Each year more than 2 million children die from diarrhoeal diseases; the same number again die from acute respiratory infections. The simple hygiene behaviour of washing hands with soap represents an effective way of preventing the transmission of many of these infections. However, rates of handwashing across the globe are low, presenting a challenge for health promotion programmes. Behaviour change is not easy, and past efforts based upon health education have met with limited success. New approaches are needed. We propose that much can be learnt from the world of consumer marketing. Rather than base communications programmes for behaviour change on increasing knowledge, marketers aim to respond to the inner desires and motivations of their target audiences. This study used consumer research to investigate the factors motivating handwashing with soap in order to inform a national communications campaign for Ghana. It revealed that the strongest motivators for handwashing with soap were related to nurturance, social acceptance and disgust of faeces and latrines, especially their smell. Protection from disease is mentioned as a driving force, but was not a key motivator of handwashing behaviour. The ways in which these findings have been translated into a handwash promotion campaign are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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