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Impact of a Large-Scale Handwashing Intervention on Reported Respiratory Illness: Findings from a Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

Impact of a Large-Scale Handwashing Intervention on Reported Respiratory Illness: Findings from a Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 100(3): 742-749

We assessed the impact of handwashing promotion on reported respiratory illness as a secondary outcome from among > 60,000 low-income households enrolled in a cluster-randomized trial conducted in Bangladesh. Ninety geographic clusters were randomly allocated into three groups: cholera-vaccine-only; vaccine-plus-behavior-change (handwashing promotion and drinking water chlorination); and control. Data on respiratory illness (fever plus either cough or nasal congestion or breathing difficulty within previous 2 days) and intervention uptake (presence of soap and water at handwashing station) were collected through monthly surveys conducted among a different subset of randomly selected households during the intervention period. We determined respiratory illness prevalence across groups and used log-binomial regression to examine the association between respiratory illness and presence of soap and water in the handwashing station. Results were adjusted for age, gender, wealth, and cluster-randomized design. The vaccine-plus-behavior-change group had more handwashing stations with soap and water present than controls (45% versus 25%; P < 0.001). Reported respiratory illness prevalence was similar across groups (vaccine-plus-behavior-change versus control: 2.8% versus 2.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.008, 0.006; P = 0.6; cholera-vaccine-only versus control: 3.0% versus 2.9%; 95% CI: -0.006, 0.009; P = 0.4). Irrespective of intervention assignment, respiratory illness was lower among people who had soap and water present in the handwashing station than among those who did not (risk ratioadjusted: 0.82; 95% CI: 0.69-0.98). With modest uptake of the handwashing intervention, we found no impact of this large-scale intervention on respiratory illness. However, those who actually had a handwashing station with soap and water had less illness. This suggests improving the effectiveness of handwashing promotion in achieving sustained behavior change could result in health benefits.

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Accession: 066058423

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PMID: 30608050

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