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A Qualitative Evaluation of Hand Drying Practices among Kenyans
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  • Description:
    Background

    Recommended disease prevention behaviors of hand washing, hygienic hand drying, and covering one’s mouth and nose in a hygienic manner when coughing and sneezing appear to be simple behaviors but continue to be a challenge to successfully promote and sustain worldwide. We conducted a qualitative inquiry to better understand current hand drying behaviors associated with activities of daily living, and mouth and nose covering practices, among Kenyans.

    Methods and Findings

    We conducted 7 focus group discussions; 30 in-depth interviews; 10 structured household observations; and 75 structured observations in public venues in the urban area of Kisumu; rural communities surrounding Kisumu; and a peri-urban area outside Nairobi, Kenya. Using a grounded theory approach, we transcribed and coded the narrative data followed by thematic analysis of the emergent themes. Hand drying, specifically on a clean towel, was not a common practice among our participants. Most women dried their hands on their waist cloth, called a leso, or their clothes whether they were cooking, eating or cleaning the nose of a young child. If men dried their hands, they used their trousers or a handkerchief. Children rarely dried their hands; they usually just wiped them on their clothes, shook them, or left them wet as they continued with their activities. Many people sneezed into their hands and wiped them on their clothes. Men and women used a handkerchief fairly often when they had a runny nose, cold, or the flu. Most people coughed into the air or their hand.

    Conclusions

    Drying hands on dirty clothes, rags and lesos can compromise the benefits of handwashing. Coughing and sneezing in to an open hand can contribute to spread of disease as well. Understanding these practices can inform health promotion activities and campaigns for the prevention and control of diarrheal disease and influenza.

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