News Archive 2009


IFH Newsletter

The International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene have released their December Newsletter.


Is the person next to you washing their hands with soap?

People are more likely to wash their hands when they have been shamed into it, according to a study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. To read more about this study CLICK HERE."

Global Handwashing Day

October 15th is Global Handwashing Day. Read more about this annual event to see what is going on.

New Staff

The Environmental Health Group welcomes two new research assistants this month:

Diana Fleischman – Hygiene Centre

Belen Torondel – New concepts for on-site sanitation based on bio-additives and pit design. September 2009

The Dirty Hands study

The Dirty Hands Study has now been published in Epidemiology and Infection. Organised as part of Global Handwashing Day 2008, we found that a quarter of commuters sampled had faecal bacteria on their hands, and that more men had hand contamination the further north we investigated.

With Soap and Water or Sanitizer, a Cleaning That Can Stave Off the Flu

It sounds so simple as to be innocuous, a throwaway line in public-health warnings about swine flu. But one of the most powerful weapons against the new H1N1 virus is summed up in a three-word phrase you first heard from your mother: wash your hands. Read the full article in the New York Times.


Funding for pit latrine solutions.

Click HERE for information on an exciting new 3 year programme on extending the lifetime of pit latrines and improving their affordability.

Bug Central: inside the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is at the forefront of research worldwide into infections both commonplace and exotic, from TB and malaria to Guinea worm disease and swine flu. Victoria Lambert encounters the people who pursue the parasites.

Global Handwashing Day 2009

Global Handwashing Day will be on 15th October again this year, and it was decided that even more emphasis would be put on children.

If you want to be involved in the day, or would like advice in planning your own activities, then contact

For more information about the day, go to, where you can also download the official Planner’s Guide for advice about planning your own Global Handwashing Day activities.

In addition to the above, you can read our own Global Handwashing page by clicking HERE.


Gaby Judah has won a coveted MRC-ESRC Interdisciplinary 4-year PhD studentship

She will be taking a masters in psychology at University College London, before returning to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to undertake a PhD in habit formation.

Disgusting! Now wash your hands!’

Read Val Curtis interview in Toronto Star HERE

Val Curtis and Robert Aunger visited Bangalore

To discuss common research goals with Hindustan Unilever.

Swine flu

Val Curtis still involved in the government's advisory committee on behavioural measures for swine flu.

First coalition meeting for Global Handwashing Day 2009

The Coalition met on 27th May to discuss plans for Global Handwashing Day 2009, which is on 15th October. Meeting participants included representatives from the Health Protection Agency, Unilever, WaterAid, the Department for International Development, PumpAid, Salt, PooProductions, and the World Health Organisation. Activities this year will include the Golden Poo Awards (an award ceremony for animated films on hygiene and sanitation), and a microbiological study of children's hands, as well as many activities focussed on school children.

May 2009

Swine ‘flu. The latest hygiene behaviour research on BBC’s Radio 4 programme.

Val Curtis featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Broadcasting House’ programme to talk about her latest research into hygiene and staying healthy. Dr Curtis talked about the DISGUST RESPONSE with respect to Swine ‘flu. The programme, which discusses the big news stories of the week, was aired on Sunday 3rd May. For further items on Swine ‘flu, follow the links on the home page.

Read the Wolf Peter Schmidt editorial on diarrhoeal disease research

In an editorial published this month in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition Dr Wolf Schmidt, critically comments on the result of an expert panel exercise that aimed at identifying research priorities in diarrhoea disease research. According to the experts, priority should be given to clinical solutions to decrease diarrhoea mortality with particular focus on health services research. Dr Schmidt argues that de-prioritising research on environmental and nutrition interventions now could be detrimental to efforts to reduce diarrhoeal diseases in the long term. Click HERE for more information.


J HEALTH POPUL NUTR 2009 June; 27(3):0000
Setting Priorities in Diarrhoeal Disease Research: Merits and Pitfalls of Expert Opinion: EDITORIAL

April 2009

What makes human technology special’?

Robert Aunger’s paper on 'What makes human technology special?' will be forthcoming in the Cambridge Journal of Economics. In it, Aunger argues that human technology is an evolutionary development from technology in other animal species which has become more complex thanks to a special human cognitive ability called 'second-order instrumentality' in which artifacts used purely as a means to an end can be produced (i.e., as tools to make other artefacts, or to serve as parts of more complex artefacts, such as machines).

Val Curtis - BMJ Communicator of the Year

BMJ Health Communicator of the Year

Val Curtis has won the first annual British Medical Journal Group Award for "Health Communicator of the Year" at a ceremony hosted by Sandi Tokswig at the London Marriott Hotel on April 2nd 2009.

Read about it HERE or go to the school press release HERE.


The DFID External Water Forum will take place April 30th 2009.

March 2009

BMJ Health Communicator of the year

Val Curtis has been short listed for BMJ Health communicator of the year for her work on Global Handwashing day. The awards ceremony is 2nd April.

Read Wolf Schmidt, Sandy Cairncross' article on 'Recent diarrhoeal illness and risk of lower respiratory infections in children under the age of 5 years' published at the International Journal of Epidemiology

In collaboration with colleagues from Bahia, Brazil, Wolf Schmidt and Sandy Cairncross explored the temporal relationship between diarrhoea and subsequent risk of pneumonia in data sets from two large child studies. The results indicate that diarrhoea may increase the risk of pneumonia within a vulnerable period of 2 to 4 weeks. This is the first population based evidence that a reduction in diarrhoea may contribute to lowering the burden of pneumonia, the most common proximate cause of child death world wide. Read it HERE

February 2009

Household water treatment as a means to reduce the global burden on diarrhoea, paper by Schmidt - Cairncross

Point-of-use water treatment (household water treatment - HWT) has been advocated as a means to substantially decrease the global burden of diarrhoea and to contribute to the Millennium Development Goals. A paper by Wolf Schmidt and Sandy Cairncross published in Environmental Science & Technology reviews the evidence for HWT and concludes that currently there is little evidence in support of scaling up HWT now.

Current evidence does not exclude that the observed diarrhoea reductions are largely or entirely due to bias. Further acceptability studies and large blinded trials or trials with an objective health outcome are needed before HWT can be recommended to policy makers and implementers.

Jeroen Ensink has been awarded an exploratory grant

Jeroen Ensink has been awarded an exploratory grant from the British Council in Kazakhstan to develop a collaboration and joint research with Kabul University. The grant is awarded under the INSPIRE programme.

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