Online Program

Hand sanitiser provision for reducing illness absences in primary school children in New Zealand: Cluster randomised trial

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 1:18 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Patricia Priest, DPhil, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
We undertook a cluster randomized trial to assess the effects of hand sanitizer on illness absences in pupils of 68 primary schools in the South Island of New Zealand. All pupils received a hand hygiene education session, and schools were randomized to either the provision of hand sanitizer in all classrooms, or usual practice, for 20 weeks over the winter. Each week, information on absences was collected from each school and the parents of a subgroup of children were telephoned to find out about the reason for absence.

The primary outcome was the incidence rate of absence episodes due to any illness; secondary outcomes included respiratory illness, gastrointestinal illness, absence for any reason, and the length of illness and absence. Estimates of intervention effect for follow-up children were calculated from marginal models using generalized estimating equations, with robust variance estimation, to account for correlation of responses of children within schools.

Post absence phone calls resulted in establishing an absence reason for 3846 absences, of which 2,833 were due to illness. The rate of absence due to any illness was similar in the intervention (1.21 per 100 days) and control groups (1.16 per 100 days), and the confidence interval for the incidence rate ratio (IRR = 1.06; 95%CI 0.94, 1.18) excluded a clinically important difference. Furthermore, there was no evidence that hand sanitizers were effective in reducing rates of respiratory or gastrointestinal illness episodes, or the length of the episodes, to any clinically important degree.

Learning Areas:

Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Discuss whether hand sanitiser has a role in reducing infectious disease in primary school children

Keyword(s): Infectious Diseases, School Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an epidemiologist working mainly in infectious disease epidemiology, and I was the principal investigator of the cluster-randomised controlled trial that this abstract reports.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.