Have you washed your hands today? Beyond the widespread practice of social distancing, health officials recommend frequent hand washing, cleaning high-touch surfaces, and no face touching to help limit the spread of COVID-19. In light of these recommendations, behavioral scientists have compiled evidence-based strategies to increase hand hygiene. Complementary to these efforts, the EAST framework (Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely) can help practitioners adapt these strategies to their own contexts.
Make it Easy. Convenience and simple messaging are critically important to successful public health campaigns and can reduce the amount of effort required to follow hand hygiene recommendations. Hand sanitizer use increases substantially when freestanding dispensers are placed near hospital entrances and are easily visible (Aarestrup & Moesgaard, 2016; Cure & Van Enk, 2015), and automatic paper towel dispensers boost hand washing frequency (Ford et al., 2013). Simple posters with bright colors, step-by-step visual instructions, and minimal text are most effective to enhance knowledge of proper hand washing procedures.
Make it Attractive. Scents, colorful visuals, and rewards can unconsciously guide users to wash or sanitize their hands. In a hospital setting, a citrus smell more than tripled hand sanitizer use (King et al., 2016). In schools and universities, colorful stickers of arrows and footprints placed on the floors lead to more frequent hand washing (Blackwell et al., 2017; Dreibelbis et al., 2016). At home, children are four times more likely to wash their hands when toys are visibly embedded inside their soap (Watson et al., 2019).