The ongoing ‘silent pandemic’ of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a significant threat to human health. In 2019, AMR was associated with 4.95 million deaths, and this number could rise to 10 million deaths annually by 2050 without action. As the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of ending, the Global Hygiene Council (GHC) has released a report calling for urgent action to prioritize hygiene in home and community settings in pandemic preparedness plans beyond COVID-19.
The GHC report, titled “Making Hygiene Matter,” emphasizes the importance of home and community hygiene in reducing the incidence of infections and prevalence of AMR. The council is urging governments and policymakers to recognize the critical role hygiene plays in protecting millions of lives.
The report outlines four pillars for change: sustaining hygiene awareness in everyday settings, reducing the need for antibiotics through hygiene practices, recognizing the economic benefits of effective hygiene, and driving behavior change to establish strong hygiene habits. Elizabeth Scott, GHC Chair and Microbiologist and Professor Emerita at Simmons University in Boston, USA, stresses the need for urgent action to safeguard public health, stating that good hygiene is a cost-effective, accessible solution to prevent infections and save lives.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, secondary benefits of increased hygiene practices have been observed, such as the decrease in prevalence of other diseases, including seasonal flu and common illnesses in children. Scientists confirm a ‘clear consensus’ that this decline was due to human behavior and hygiene-based mitigation measures.
In response to existing and future infectious disease threats, including AMR, the GHC is urging governments, policymakers, and health authorities to adopt and implement the report’s recommendations. This will help to safeguard public health and protect millions of lives around the globe.