Washing Hands Works



DFAT photo library, via Flickr

Washing your hands is a very important part of good health. Joshua Leo and Liz Waid share two stories that show its importance.

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Transcript


Voice 1

Thank you for joining us for today’s Spotlight program. I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

In the 1840s, the Vienna Lying-In Hospital had two child-birthing areas. Pregnant women could come to these different rooms to have their babies. In one room, midwives cared for mothers during the childbirth process. Midwives are women who receive training in health services to help pregnant women. In the other room, medical students helped the pregnant mothers to birth their babies. Older doctors observed, helped and advised these students.

Voice 2

Studies comparing these two different rooms showed tragic and frightening results. Women giving birth in the room with the midwives died about two to three percent of the time. But in the room where students and doctors assisted the women, the rate was much higher! Ten percent or more of the women giving birth died!

Voice 1

No one could offer a satisfying reason for this huge difference in death rates - except for Ignaz Semmelweis. He was a doctor working at the Vienna Lying-In hospital. Doctor Semmelweis observed that many of the medical students received training in the autopsy room. There, they learned by studying dead bodies. After working in the autopsy room, they would assist in the child-birthing rooms.

Voice 2

Doctor Semmelweis believed that the students were carrying small particles from the dead bodies on their hands. He believed that the particles were causing infections in the pregnant women. Many people did not believe this idea. They believed that sickness was caused by God or simple chance.

Voice 1

Doctor Semmelweis suggested a simple experiment. Students were washing their hands. But their hands still carried a bad smell. Doctor Semmelweis suggested that the students wash their hands with chlorinated lime. This powerful washing soap could kill bacteria and viruses. This solution worked! After a short time, death rates in the student’s child-birthing room fell to the same level as in the midwives’ room.

Voice 2

This is an important event in the history of medicine. Doctor Semmelweis was not the first or only doctor to suggest this kind of theory. But his case showed a strong link between washing hands and staying healthy. After this experiment other doctors and scientists proved that Doctor Semmelweis was correct. They proved that very small creatures like viruses and bacteria - germs - were the cause of disease and sickness. This is the germ theory of disease.

Voice 1

Today, doctors and other health experts everywhere agree with the germ theory of disease. They agree that avoiding or killing germs is the best way to avoid disease. And they agree that the best way to avoid and kill germs is by washing your hands. In a health care situation it is best to kill germs with antibacterial soap. But, if you use the correct method, even just plain soap and water can wash most germs off a normal person’s hands.

Voice 2

Sadly, it is still common today for people to get infections from visiting the hospital or health care center. Why? Well, hand washing may just seem like too much work for health workers who are already busy.

Voice 1

This is also true outside the health care industry. Hand washing offers many wonderful proven results. But many people still avoid this simple process. That is why many groups are currently working to spread information about hand washing. They are working to make hand washing a normal, everyday part of people’s lives.

Voice 2

The Karachi Soap Health Study showed what providing hand washing education in a community can do. The Journal of the American Medical Association tells about this experiment. Public and private groups joined together to perform the study. Researchers studied families in four different areas of Karachi, Pakistan.

Voice 1

In all, the researchers studied over 900 households, or families. Each chosen family had at least two children younger than 15 years old. And at least one child was younger than five.

Voice 2

Living conditions for each family were similar. Most families had a toilet. Families could usually easily get soap for a good price. In these communities, many people did wash their hands with only water for special religious customs. But washing hands with cleaning soap was not common at any time. In these communities, washing hands was not a common everyday part of people’s lives.

Voice 1

Researchers put each family into a particular group. One group received a supply of powerful antibacterial cleaning soap. Another group received a supply of plain, or simple, soap. Both of these groups also received hand washing education in their homes.

Voice 2

The final group was the “control group.” The control group did not receive any soap from the researchers. The families in this group did not receive any hand washing education. They just lived their lives normally. Researchers could compare results of the other groups to the control group. This would tell them if soap and hand washing education made a difference in people’s health. The study lasted for one year.

Voice 1

The study trained local people to educate the families about hand washing. These field workers visited each family once every week. They encouraged the families to follow a particular method for washing their hands. They encouraged the families to wet their hands, use enough provided soap to make a thick lather or covering, and then rub their hands together with the soap for forty-five seconds.

Voice 2

Field workers encouraged families to repeat this process after using the toilet and after cleaning waste from a baby. They also encouraged families to wash their hands like this before preparing food, eating, or feeding babies. Mostly, field workers encouraged families in the study to make hand washing a habit - something they would do often every day.

Voice 1

After the study, researchers compared the three groups. The health of families in the control group did not change. But families who received soap and hand washing education showed great improvement in health! Children in these families had 53 percent fewer cases of diarrhea than the control group. Babies in these families had 39 percent fewer days of diarrhea than babies in the control group. These results were similar in groups with plain soap and antibacterial soap.

Voice 2

The experiment at the Vienna Lying-In Hospital and the Karachi Soap Health Study in Pakistan show that hand washing can produce quick and amazing results. Clearly hand washing is an important thing to do. But surprisingly, many people still do not do it! Let’s change that. Wash your hands well and often. Encourage the people around you to do the same - for everyone’s health. Do not spread sickness and disease. Instead, spread the good news about washing your hands!

Voice 1

The writer and producer of today’s program was Liz Waid. Computer users can hear more programs, read our scripts, and see our word list on our website at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “Washing Hands Works.”

Voice 2

If you have a question or comment for Spotlight you can e-mail us at radio@radioenglish.net. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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Question:

Do you use good hand washing methods? Do you know the correct way to wash your hands?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
yaircarreno@gmail.com
said on February 02, 2014

Hola, excelente las herramientas. En realidad se mejora bastante el aprendizaje del inglés.
Felicitaciones y mil gracias.

Nota: El audio del primer y segundo artículo están cruzados, por favor validar.

See you!

0's avatar
0
said on February 03, 2014

Thank you for your comment! The audio was incorrect - it has been corrected, and will now match the script.

Avatar Spotlight
onur
said on February 08, 2014

Washing hand is important for everyone, but it is more important for health workers. Their hands can be transporter for microorganism to spread them among patients. They have to pay attention to hygiene rules in hospital. Because most of patients have weak immune system and most of microorganism in hospital are resistant to antibiotics.

Sultan's avatar
Sultan
said on February 09, 2014

It is important to have good hand washing habits throughout our day. However, there are other healthy habits we should practise in our daily routine, especially if we are sick. Thank you Spotlight.

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on July 10, 2019

Yes, I do it very well… My family says I am a cleaning manic because I wash my hands constantly and I am ever complaining if I see any fault in the house cleaning. I have also a fascination for vaccines and balanced food.

Avatar Spotlight
November Green
said on July 10, 2019

A very exciting story. Thanks Spotlight