Urgent need to reduce inequalities in infection control practices

Urgent need to reduce inequalities in infection control practices
©iStock/Stígur Már Karlsson

The World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted an urgent need to reduce inequalities in the availability of good hand hygiene and infection prevention and control measures between high- and lower-income countries.

The WHO has undertaken a global survey looking at the implementation of infection prevention and control programmes in different nations – finding that the level of progress on the implementation of hand hygiene and infection prevention and control programmes is significantly lower in low- than in middle- and high-income countries.

It highlights the urgent need to reduce these inequalities in the availability of good infection measures and has created a new WHO online monitoring portal that will help countries identify and address the gaps.

Improving global infection control

COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of good hand hygiene practices in reducing the risk of virus transmission and in preventing any infections acquired in healthcare settings, which are contributing to the spread of antimicrobial resistance and other emerging health threats.

Patients in low- and middle-income countries are twice as likely to experience infections during healthcare delivery as patients in high-income countries (15% and 7% of patients respectively); the risk in intensive care units (ICU), especially among new-borns, is between two and 20 times higher.

One reason for this is that, in some low-income countries, only one in ten health workers practice proper hand hygiene because facilities are not available. Lack of financial resources and crumbling infrastructures are key challenges to improving global infection control, with the 2020 WHO Global progress report on WASH in health care facilities: Fundamentals first report revealing that globally, one in four healthcare facilities do not have basic water services and one in three lack hand hygiene supplies at the point of care.

Monitoring portal

While national guidelines on IPC practices existed in 50% of low-income countries and 69 to 77% of middle and high-income countries, only 20% and 29 to 57% had implementation plans and strategies in low-, and middle-, and high-income countries, respectively. Overall, only 22% of all countries monitored implementation roll-out and impact.

Few countries have the capacity to monitor practices effectively. To combat this, the WHO has developed the first-ever IPC monitoring portal which is a protected online platform for countries to collect data in a standardised and user-friendly manner and download their situation analysis following data entry, along with advice on areas and approaches for improvement.


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