The primary role of the EHW is to promote good hygiene by encouraging everyone in the community to adopt healthy habits. This can mean EHWs working with other professionals, such as health workers, community nurses and school teachers to get the hygiene message out to the community.
EHWs will need to try a number of ways to get hygiene information to people in the community. Some will work better than others, depending on the issue and who you are talking to.
Queensland Health has developed a couple of health promotion programs to teach school kids about personal hygiene.
"Mr Germ" was developed by the Tropical Population Health Unit in Cairns and provides lots of great information on hygiene for kids in indigenous communities. A number of helpful and fun kits were put together to help EHWs take information to schools and teach the kids. Contact the Cairns Population Health Unit for more information.
Queensland Health's Germ Busters program helps adults explain to children the problems of germs (harmful viruses and bacteria). The site talks about "sneaky bugs that catch a ride on our hands after we do things like: go to the toilet, blow our nose, or give our pet a cuddle". It also helps explain how good hygiene stops germs from making people sick.
Some useful resources on the Germ Busters site include:
Promoting good hygiene takes time because EHWs need to change people's habits. For the best results, develop a program for tackling problems that poor hygiene is causing in your community. For ideas on how to develop your program, take a look at the Program Management Guidelines for Health Promotion produced by Central Sydney Area Health Service and NSW Health.
It recommends a step-by-step approach along the following lines.
What are the problems you are trying to fix?
|For example, if people are not able to shake off the flu, the problem could be that they are not washing their hands and faces regularly. People with scabies could be living in overcrowded houses and continually passing the parasites from one person to another.|
Who do you need to talk to about the problem?
|For example, if school children are getting sick from not washing their hands or sharing drink bottles, you might need to talk to their parents, teachers, and perhaps sports coaches, as well as the children.|
|3||What resources do you need?||Can you get the support of the council, school staff, sporting groups, community health nurses, businesses, or government agencies? Do you need to print fact sheets, make display boards, give demonstrations, buy or borrow a vehicle?|
|4||How will you get the messages out?||
Depending on the problem and who you need to talk to, you might try one or more of the following:
You'll find some useful tips on the Why Promote Good Hygiene page.
|5||How do you know if your program is working?||Check regularly with the local health centre to see if cases of illness are less than when you started. Also, conduct a survey of the community to see if people understand your messages and are adopting the hygiene habits you are promoting.|
|6||How do you keep the program going?||As part of the program, try to get others in the community involved in your hygiene program. For example, encourage teachers to make washing hands a regular part of children's daily routine. Ask elders to encourage washing when groups are out in the bush, whenever safe water is available.|
These fact sheets on Food Hygiene and Safety are good handouts to give parents or use in group discussions.
Having special community days to deal with problems gets everyone involved in improving hygiene. Following are some ideas. If you have had success with other community hygiene events, let the Environmental Health Unit know about it so that it can be included on the website for other EHWs to try.
A general clean-up day can motivate people to get rid of rubbish that is lying around their yards. You'll find more on community clean-ups on the Waste—Community Awareness Campaigns page.
Queensland Health's Communicable Diseases Control Manual has information on good hygiene and preventing the spread of germs like measles, mumps, cryptosporidium, typhoid, hepatitis, salmonella and meningococcal disease. It outlines the symptoms of disease and what action is to be taken. Although the manual is designed for doctors and nurses, it is useful for EHWs to know something about the symptoms and the action that needs to be taken.