News Archive 2008

December 2008

Call for Infectious Films.

Read about a film competition which tackle the issues of sanitation/hygiene in an edgy way, CLICK HERE.

Launch of the new DFID Water and Sanitation Strategy on Oct 28th 2008

Attended by Wolf Schmidt and Sandy Cairncross. Read more on DFID’s new strategy, CLICK HERE.

Audio podcast from Val Curtis and Robert Aunger on habits

Derek Thorne hears from Val Curtis and Robert Aunger at the London School who are spearheading initiatives all over the world to reduce this loss of life by persuading people to get into the habit of washing their hands after using the toilet. To listen to the audio podcast, CLICK HERE.

November 2008

Read Val Curtis’ views on the BBC article ‘Women's hands 'harbour more bugs'.

For more information, please click HERE.

Jeroen Ensink attended the International Expert Consultation...

On Wastewater Irrigation, Consumer health risk assessment, on-farm and off-farm options for health risk mitigation, and wastewater governance in low-income countries organized by The International water management institute, WHO and IDRC, in Ghana from the 6th to the 9th of October 2008.

Disgust and Desire: rationality, emotion and habit in hygiene promotion...

Val Curtis presenting at the open seminar on Tuesday 4th November 2008 at King’s College, London

October 2008

October 15th Global Handwashing Day:

A New Platform for a Critical Health Intervention. Global Handwashing Day is dedicated to raising awareness of handwashing with soap as a key approach to disease prevention.

The theme for Global Handwashing Day’s inaugural year is “Focus on School Children”. The members have pledged to get the maximum number of school children handwashing with soap in more than 40 countries, including Columbia, India, Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Madagascar, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, the Philippines, the U.S., and the U. K. Planned activities in various countries include mass handwashing events, photo exhibitions, newspaper supplements, and poster competitions.


The Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) established Global Handwashing Day in 2008 as a stimulating way to promote a global and local vision of handwashing with soap. Members of the PPPHW include the World Bank and Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), host of the PPPHW; the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Procter & Gamble; Unilever; the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC); the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); Johns Hopkins University (JHU); and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Implementation and Management

Global Handwashing Day is supported and implemented by public, private, and civil society organisations. In each country where activities are planned, a convening institution brings together other organisations that have an interest in handwashing to coordinate activities. In the U.K, the convening institution is LSHTM. LSHTM and its partners are conducting several activities, including a study on contamination on commuters’ hands and a hygiene-promoting poster competition for school children.

Further Information

For further information on Global Handwashing Day and the role hygiene promotion plays in public health in developing countries, please visit the following website.

For information on Global Handwashing Day activities in the U.K., please email us via the contact page for the attention of Caitlin Cook.

Professor Sandy Cairncross: Nomination for the George MacDonald Medal 2008

Professor Sandy Cairncross is one of the foremost researchers in the field of Sanitation, Hygiene and Water, and their impact on health.

Sandy has probably done more in the last 30 years to advance this hitherto neglected field than any other professional. By tracing their health impacts in households and communities, he showed that sanitation and hygiene are priorities for public health in developing countries, alongside water. He showed that infrastructure and human behaviour must be seen as a continuum and that engineers should design to improve the lives of people, where they live, in their households and communities.

Making Sandy the 2008 George MacDonald Medallist is thus a fitting way to mark this current International Year of Sanitation.

Sandy’s 30 year research career has had many highlights. Here are just a few:

1/ His early career in Lesotho and Mozambique led him to write or co-write: the famous Ross Institute publications on Small Water Supplies and on Small Excreta Disposal Systems, and two books; one on Water, Health and Development and the other on Evaluation for Village Water Supply Planning.

He also co-wrote the classic (and still essential) text book Environmental Health Engineering in the Tropics: an Introductory Text. In a widely read Earthscan book, The Poor Die Young, Sandy set out the case for focusing on environmental health in homes in third world cities.

2/ In 1992 Sandy was asked to analyze the results of the UN Decade for Water. His classic report: Sanitation and Water Supply: Practical Lessons from the Decade set out the case for seeing sanitation as a private good, that should be marketed. This was prophetic and gave rise to much new thinking in the sector. His research on the health impact of sanitation was instrumental in getting the UN to adopt a millennium development goal to cut the number of people on the planet without sanitation by half.

3/ One of Sandy’s greatest professional achievements has been the elevation of the topic of hygiene from neglect to a key element of the water, sanitation and hygiene triumvirate. He set up the first international meeting on hygiene promotion which led to two volumes: Actions Speak and Studying Hygiene Behaviour, which set the future agenda for hygiene. His reviews of the health impact of handwashing and his contribution to a global study of disease control priorities in developing countries showed that hygiene promotion is possibly the most cost-effective public health intervention of all.

4/ Sandy’s ground breaking work continues, this year a paper he co wrote with long term collaborators in Brazil was short listed for Lancet paper of the year, because it provided some of the best evidence we have for the health impacts of sanitation.

5/ Sandy has made major contributions in other areas. He has trained a generation of public health specialists and he is revered by his MSc and research degree students.

All who have had the privilege to work with Sandy are bowled over by his erudition, by his commitment and above all, by his extraordinary modesty.

The cumulative impact of Sandy’s body of work has been a sea change in the way the water, sanitation and hygiene sector does business - no longer focusing simply infrastructure provision but working to maximise their impact on public health.

Many more people in the developing world now enjoy better health from living in safer environments as a result of the influence of Professor Sandy Cairncross.

Press release: Northerners' hands up to three times dirtier than those living in the South

The further north you go, the more likely you are to have faecal bacteria on your hands, especially if you are a man, according to a preliminary study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Read the preliminary study on 'Isolation of bacteria of faecal origin on commuter's hands'

Infectious intestinal diseases are amongst the biggest killers of children worldwide, latest estimates put deaths from diarrhoea at about 1.9 million per annum. It has been suggested that hygiene promotion may be the most cost effective intervention for preventing infectious diseases in developing countries and that handwashing in particular, if globally practiced, could save over a million lives.

September 2008

Dr Mark Schaller visiting the Hygiene Centre

Dr. Mark Schaller, a Professor of Psychology at University of British Columbia in Canada, will be visiting the Hygiene Centre at the end of September. Mark's research focuses on how aspects of our cognition and culture can function to prevent the spread of infection. He will be giving a talk on Tuesday the 23rd of September from 4 -5.30 pm in Room 101, 49 Bedford Square, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Infectious Disease, Adaptive Cognition, and the Creation of Culture

Infectious diseases have posed a threat to human (and pre-human) fitness for a long time. Many aspects of human cognition and behaviour can be characterized as adaptive responses to this threat. Dr Schaller will discuss consequences of this for understanding contemporary social cognition and social relations (with a special emphasis on prejudice and discrimination). He will also discuss further consequences that are reflected in human culture, paying particular attention to the origins of cross-cultural differences.

Read about the Schmidt Chalabi Genser computer simulation model on occurrence of infections

Wolf-Peter Schmidt with Zaid Chalabi and Bernd Genser developed a computer simulation model that allows simulating the occurrence of common recurrent infections such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections taking into account a wide range of epidemiological characteristics. The model allows for the exploration of different disease surveillance methods, disease definitions and statistical methods. The model is described in a paper soon to be published in the Journal Epidemiology & Infection.

International Rescue Committee's Environmental Health Conference, August 2008

Adam Biran took part in discussions with delegates about opportunities for innovation in hygiene promotion interventions. Read the report HERE.

George Macdonald Medal

Professor Sandy Cairncross has been awarded the prestigious George Macdonald Medal in recognition of his outstanding research leading to improvement of health in tropical countries.

August 2008

Adam Biran at the 6th Annual Environmental Health Conference

Adam Biran participated in the International Rescue Committee's 6th Annual Environmental Health Conference in Dar Es Salaam where he gave introductory sessions on social marketing and formative research in hygiene promotion.

Read Jeroen Ensink’s new article on ‘Raw wastewater use in agriculture: risk versus benefits’

To read the article, click HERE.

July 2008

Toolkit for Schools

The Hygiene Centre has made a new Toolkit for Schools availble for download. The Toolkit includes:

  • A document outlining the background and rationale for the tools
  • A document containing a description of all tool protocols
  • A set of forms for use during data collection
  • A set of pictures for use in one of the tools

To download the new toolkit, click HERE.

Warning: Habits May be Good for You

Val Curtis' work with the Public Private Partnership in Hand Washing was given prominence in the New York Times on the 13th July following a meeting with the World Bank in America. The article is in two parts, view part 1 HERE, view part 2 HERE.

June 2008

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have promoted Dr Val Curtis to the position of Reader in Hygiene.

Workshop on control and prevention of cholera and diarrhoeal disease 13-17 May 2008

UNICEF and WHO have sponsored a workshop on the control and prevention of cholera and diarrhoeal disease, which took place from the 13-17 May 2008 in Dakar, Senegal. Jeroen Ensink from the LSHTM Environmental Health Group attended. He has also recently been promoted to lecturer.

SPARK Workshop on Habit and Routine

Robert Aunger, Valerie Curtis and Gaby Judah hosted a SPARK Workshop on Habit and Routine on 29-30 May. Despite the fact that as many as half of our daily behaviours are habitual, including many with a direct impact on health, there has been surprisingly little work in the area. The workshop aimed to bring together people working on habit and routine, to find out what has already been established, and what questions remain. As well as hearing presentations from the leaders in the field, the participants worked on group tasks to develop working definitions of key concepts, to discuss how routines and habits are formed, and how they can be changed in order to promote healthy behaviour.

The workshop hosted speakers and participants approaching the topic from fields of social psychology, neuroscience, addiction, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, developmental psychology, computer modelling, animal behaviour, robotics and Unilever consumer research. The workshop was a great success, with participants leaving with a much broader understanding of habit than they arrived with. Professor Wendy Wood from Duke University called the workshop the 'founding meeting for the science of habit'.

May 2008

Have You Visited ‘Sanlexicon’?

Sanlexicon is an open source web platform designed to promote a common understanding of technical terms related to all aspects of sanitation and excreta management (technical, financial, institutional, social). Terms can be accessed through the search function or via categories.

ROSA Project Progress

Jeroen Ensink attended a ROSA project progress meeting in Arba Minch from 14 to 21 April. For details of the EU FP6 funded project click HERE

Professor Sally Bloomfield on MRSA infections

In an April press release from the Hygiene Centre Professor Sally Bloomfield put out the warning that, if we are ever to get the problem of MRSA infections in hospitals under control, then we also have to tackle it at source – in the home and community.

This warning came in support of recently-voiced concerns about the effectiveness of the current UK hospital ‘deep cleaning” programme’. Dr. Jodi Lindsay, an expert in infectious diseases, told the BBC on Sat 28 March, "The reason the deep cleaning programme is not going to work is that MRSA is carried by people and as soon as you deep clean a hospital, if you let people back into it again, you're going to have the same MRSA problem."

Professor Sally Bloomfield, said: ‘This means that if we are to get MRSA under control, we have to stop it circulating in the home and community. If we can reduce the number of people carrying MRSA as part of their normal body flora, we can limit the numbers of “carriers” entering hospital as patients – who then either get an MRSA infection themselves, or pass it on to other patients.

To read more of Sally's article please click HERE

April 2008

Lancet Series on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

The Lancet, which on World Water Day published a hard-hitting editorial on sanitation, has also decided to publish a series of five articles on water, sanitation and hygiene and hygiene centre staff will be playing an active role in their preparation. The process will kick off with a stakeholders' meeting hosted by the HC, on April 21.

Workshop to determine experimental interventions for Hygiene Wired - a study of handwashing in public washrooms

On 26th March, Robert Aunger hosted a workshop in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to determine which interventions should be used in Hygiene Wired, an ESRC-funded study of handwashing in public washrooms. Health psychologists from around the country, and representatives from Lifebuoy and Unilever, met to discuss which psychological constructs should be tested against each other in this study, which aims to determine the most effective way to encourage people to wash their hands with soap.

Val Curtis presented the Hygiene Centre's best knowledge about how to increase handwashing with soap. Combining these ideas with current behaviour change theories, the participants came up with many creative suggestions for potential messages to be screened, and the best of these will be selected to be used as interventions.

Global Sanitation Fund

Prof Sandy Cairncross has been elected Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Global Sanitation Fund. (for details of the GSF, see

March 2008

Shortlisted for Lancet Paper of the Year 2007

Sandy Cairncross' paper on the health impact of a sanitation project in Salvador Da Bahia, Brazil was shortlisted for Lancet Paper of the Year 2007. He is also assisting in coordinating a series of 5 papers on WSH to be published in 2009 in the Lancet.

Adam Biran's Book Review

Of 'Hygiene Promotion a Practical Manual for Relief and Development' was published in 'Waterlines', Jan; 27 (1) 88-89.

February 2008

Raising awareness of the importance of home hygiene in preventing the spread of infection – IFH Press activity December 2007

During the second half of December 2007, the International Scientific Forum, in collaboration with the Hygiene Centre, issued 2 press releases. The first which featured the idea “If you don't want to fall ill this Christmas, then share a festive kiss but don't shake hands” highlighted the importance of hygiene in preventing the spread of colds and flu in the home and community.

The second, which focused on reducing the spread of norovirus, highlighted the concept that “If the current outbreak of norovirus is to be contained before it spreads into offices and schools opening up for the New Year, it needs to be tackled at source – in the home. These releases stimulated considerable media coverage (76 articles in total), not only in the UK (The Times, Telegraph and Daily Mail) but also in Europe, the US, and as far a field as India and elsewhere.

The extensive response illustrates the current high level of public interest in infectious diseases and hygiene, and the growing concerns about the need for better hygiene to control the spread diseases such as norovirus, influenza, MRSA and C. difficile, not only in hospitals but also in the home and community. It suggests that the current “climate of concern” offers significant opportunities for hygiene promotion through the media in the developed as well as the developing world.

Working Group on Global Consultation on Pandemic Disease Control Strategies’ expert advisor Val Curtis

Val Curtis attended the Working Group on Global Consultation on Pandemic Disease Control Strategies at WHO Geneva 31st Jan and 1st Feb as the expert advisor on control in the community. This meeting was held to prepare global guidance on disease control strategies in the event of a global influenza pandemic. Val presented various options to the meeting including handwashing

Jeroen Ensink in China

Jeroen Ensink visited China in January for a SAFIR project meeting. Whilst there he was in talks with the Chinese Agricultural University (CAU) on the use of wastewater in agriculture.

African Sanitation Ministerial Conference and Sanitation Behaviour Change workshop

Mimi Jenkins, Beth Scott and Steven Sugden will be presenting at Afrisan +5 in Durban. This is the Africa Sanitation Ministerial Conference to be held on, 18-20 February 08

Mimi Jenkins & Beth Scott will be attending a two day workshop (21-22 February 08) on Sanitation Behaviour Change hosted by WSP and funded by the Gates Foundation. - ‘How to Get Sanitation out of its Pit’

Beth Scott presenting at the seminar ‘How to Get Sanitation Out of its Pit: Alternative policy and practice directions for the International Year of Sanitation’ hosted by Oxford Centre for Water Research (OCWR) and St Hilda's College, University of Oxford on Friday 22 February 2008

January 2008

Jeroen Ensink visited Hanoi in December

to investigate the association between wastewater grown fish and vegetables and cholera. This work was done in close association with Copenhagen University.

Read Jeroen Ensink's publication on 'Wastewater-irrigated vegetables'

Published in the December issue of the Journal of Tropical Medicine and International Health COMING SOON!

Water and Sanitation Archive to be made available

The Environmental Health Group's collection of reports, plans, photographs and other publications is to be incorporated into the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's archive. The Project, together with an exhibition on Sanitation to be displayed in the School's public Library, will kick off the Hygiene Centre's activities for the International Year of Sanitation 2008. You will soon see an IYS 2008 webpage appear on and this will be updated regularly with interesting items unearthed from the archives.

- Publication of hand hygiene review by Sally Bloomfield et al in the December issue of the American Journal of Infection Control

The effectiveness of hand hygiene procedures in reducing the risks of infections in home and community settings including handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitizers
Sally F. Bloomfield, Allison E. Aiello, Barry Cookson, Carol O'Boyle , Elaine L. Larson

The International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene has published a new review which will provide support for those who work at the interface between theory and practice, particularly those who are involved in developing hygiene practice policies for the home and community, by providing a practical framework for hand hygiene practice together with a comprehensive review of the evidence base. It reviews the evidence base related to the impact of hand hygiene in reducing transmission of infectious disease in the home and community in Europe and North America and evaluates the use of alcohol-based hygiene procedures as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, handwashing.

American Journal of Infection Control 2007, 35, S27-S64

Val Curtis’ interviews on Radio 4 and Radio London on hygiene and disgust

Val Curtis appeared on Radio 4, December 26th on the programme 'Frontiers' and talked on the science of disgust. She was also interviewed by Vanessa Phelps on Radio London, January 16th, about whether we should worry about hygiene. Additionally, an ‘Off the Page' discussion about hygiene and disgust was broadcast on Wednesday 9th of January 2008 at 13:30-14:00 Repeated: Sunday 13 January 2008 23:00-23:30). This is available to listen to HERE.

Visit the 2006, 2007 News Archive

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