A new study has suggested that hand washing can significantly reduce episodes of diarrhoea.
The study, led by Dr Regina Ejemot from The Cochrane Library, assesses the strength of evidence for the benefits of hand washing in case of diarrhoea.
In the study, the researchers reviewed data in 14 randomised controlled trials, eight of which had been conducted in day-care centres and schools mainly in high-income countries; five had been community-based trials in low- and middle-income countries, and one looked at a specific high-risk group of HIV-infected adults living in the USA.
The data showed that interventions promoting hand washing could reduce diarrhoea episodes by 29 percent in day-care centres in high-income countries and by 31 percent in communities in low- or middle- income countries.
"This is a huge benefit. For people in low-income areas this effect is comparable to providing clean water," said Ejemot.
"The challenge is to find ways of promoting hand washing, as well as to set up long term trials that test whether good practice has become part of a person's way of life," added Ejemot.