University of Denver uses 'gross' messaging to increases handwashing, fight Norovirus

December 15, 2008

DENVER - Research conducted by University of Denver (DU) Associate Professor Renée Botta suggests that it takes "gross" messaging to get undergraduate students to wash their hands more frequently after going to the bathroom.

In fall quarter 2007, researchers posted messages in the bathrooms of two DU undergraduate residence halls. The messages said things like, "Poo on you, wash your hands" or "You just peed, wash your hands," and contained vivid graphics and photos. The messages resulted in increased handwashing among females by 26 percent and among males by 8 percent.

"Fear of spreading germs or getting sick by not washing didn't mean much to students," says Botta, the lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communications and Journalism Studies. "What got their attention was the knowledge that they might be walking around with "gross things" on their hands if they didn't wash."

Observations in two control dorms over the same four-week period showed handwashing decreased 2 percentage points among females and 21.5 percentage points among males.

"We tried gross messages, germ messages and you'll-get-sick messages. And the only ones that stuck was gross," says Assistant Director of Health Promotions Katie Dunker, one of a team of five who conducted the pilot study. "We found that the 'gross factor' is what works, and we were able to increase hand washing behavior by a lot."

The findings are generating interest. Universities including UC Santa Barbara, Wyoming, Colorado State and CU-Colorado Springs want to borrow DU's techniques in hopes of improving student handwashing behavior on their campuses.

"The relevance of the message is really, really important," she says. "You can threaten that they'll get the flu or promise a flu-free winter, but if they don't really care about that, your message is going to fall flat," Botta says.

What was clear, she adds, was that the grossness campaign brought positive results not only in the study but also in a campus emergency that broke out last April. A week before the study was to be expanded to the entire University, a Norovirus outbreak made 63 students ill over a four-day period. Handwashing was identified as an important way to prevent the disease from spreading.
-end-
The study appears in the October edition of the Journal of Communication in Healthcare.

University of Denver

Related Handwashing Articles from Brightsurf:

The young resumed risky behaviors earlier than the elderly as COVID-19 pandemic dragged on
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, old and young individuals did not differ in taking precautions, but over time, older people quickly adopted preventive behaviors and they engaged in more preventive behaviors.

Washing hands and Halloween candy can mitigate COVID-19 contamination risks
New research shows that COVID-19 exposure risk from contaminated candy could be successfully mitigated both by washing hands and washing candy using a simple at-home method.

Infection by confection: COVID-19 and the risk of trick-or-treating
Researchers determined that COVID-19 transmission risk via Halloween candies is low, even when they are handled by infected people, but handwashing and disinfecting collected sweets reduces risk even further.

Cnew research on SARS-CoV-2 virus 'survivability'
COVID-19 causing virus lasts for 10 days longer than Influenza on some surfaces Lower temps, glass, stainless steel and paper banknotes give virus longer life

Contact tracing study results recommend consistent wearing of masks, handwashing, and social distancing in public to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection
A contact tracing study presented at this year's ESCMID Conference on Coronavirus Disease (ECCVID) confirms the effectiveness of wearing of masks in public, handwashing, and social distancing to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Bouncing, sticking, exploding viruses: Understanding the surface chemistry of SARS-CoV-2
Better understanding of the surface chemistry of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is needed to reduce transmission and accelerate vaccine design.

In one hour, surface coating inactivates virus that causes COVID-19
A chemical engineering professor at Virginia Tech has developed a surface coating that, when painted on common objects, inactivates SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases: Individual decisions to reduce movement -- even before state-wide stay-at-home policies were introduced -- likely helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in the USA
Real-world mobile phone data suggests a decline in the number of trips people made per day began before state-level stay-at-home policies were implemented, and the decline was strongly correlated with a reduction of COVID-19 case growth in the 25 most affected counties across the USA, according to a modelling study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

Biomedical researchers get closer to why eczema happens
A new study from researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York may help to peel back the layers of unhealthy skin -- at least metaphorically speaking -- and get closer to a cure.

Countries with early adoption of face masks showed modest COVID-19 infection rates
Regions with an early interest in face masks had milder COVID-19 epidemics, according to a new letter-to-the-editor published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Read More: Handwashing News and Handwashing Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.