When you travel around the world, one of the key things you might notice is how each country you travel to is very different. There are different cultures, different foods, different religions, different social values everywhere you go. There are also differences in how, and why behaviour change campaigns are created.

Handwashing Around the World

Here in Canada, you might notice prompts in restrooms in stores informing employees that they must wash hands with soap and water before returning to work. If you’ve ever been to a hospital, you may notice handwashing stations near the entrance for visitors. In fact, there’s an entire movement dedicated to handwashing practices for patient and healthcare provider safety. In some parts of the world however, hand washing is more than just about employee safety or patient safety.


India: Handwashing prevents diarrheal diseases

In India, the largest campaign for rural health and wellness was the Swasthya Chetna campaign, which promotes handwashing with soap. More than 3.5 million children under the age of 5 die each year due to due diarrhoea and other infections. According to UNICEF, handwashing with soap and water is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia which are responsible for the majority of child deaths.

The campaign was created by Lifebuoy (a division of Unilever) which worked closely with residents of villages in order to promote handwashing with soap. Considering over 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas and does not have access to television, radio or newspapers, the campaign required more than simply broadcasting a message about using soap and water to wash hands.

Campaign Tactics:

  • Lifebuoy sent a team of outreach workers and health officials to seek permission from village elders before visiting village schools. At schools, the company engaged schoolchildren with product demonstrations, visual aids and competitions.
  • The company used a Glow Germ demonstration, which involves using UV Lamps and powder to show how hands may appear clean after being washed with water alone, but can still carry bacteria and germs.
  • In addition to engaging with schoolchildren, the team helped the schoolchildren present plays to to their family and community members about hygiene. The team also went to each house in the village and invited young mothers to a workshop to learn more about good hygiene practices.
  • Lastly, the team recruited volunteers within the village to make local health clubs which organized events such as community bathing.
  • While the outreach workers worked within the villages, the company also worked on creating a more affordable soap in a smaller size so that cost would not be a barrier to those with low incomes.


Australia: Handwashing fights infections in Aboriginal communities

Similarly, in Australia, the  Environmental Health Branch of the Northern Territory Government created the No Germs on Me campaign for handwashing. This was an initiative pushed by the government instead of a private company and it was designed to target the high rate of infection amongst Aboriginal children and babies in the Northern territory. The aim of the campaign was to increase the rates of handwashing amongst men, women and children.

Campaign Tactics:

  • The campaign did research to determine the barriers and drivers to handwashing with soap, then worked on developing a social marketing campaign to promote the benefits handwashing and then the campaign was piloted in an Indigenous community before implemented nationwide.
  • The campaign was delivered through television commercials, posters and point of sale materials to encourage the purchase of soap.
  • The television commercials featured Indigenous talent and used humorous tones to get the message across.The campaign’s catchphrase “Did ya wash your hands?” and the response “No germs on me!” in conjunction with the humorous tones of the television commercials made it easier for community members to ask each other if they had washed their hands without seeming rude.
  • The campaign was eventually extended to urban communities to target adolescent males and young adults and after consulting with focus groups, the catchphrase was changed to “Washed your hands?” because the new catchphrase related better to urban populations.

These are examples of two campaigns for the same behaviour done in different parts of the world. As these examples show, there is more than one way to achieve the same goal but you cannot expect a one-size fits all solution, campaigns have to adapt to different target audiences in different countries.

We will continue our march around the world and learn about other countries and campaigns.

Bio-Kirat (1)

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