'We Are... Healthy' Campaign Promotes Hand Hygiene

The 'We Are... Healthy' campaign was held Sept. 15 at Penn State Behrend.As children, we’re taught to wash our hands after using a restroom. But what about after we open a door?

Door handles can be just as contaminated.  

Adam Krieder learned this during a recent hand hygiene program at Penn State Behrend.

“I swabbed the (door knob) right in front of Bruno’s Café, and it was pretty bad. The bacteria filled the whole petri dish,” said Krieder, a sophomore biology major from Hermitage.

Just how bad?

Fourteen different colonies of bacteria were living on the knob. Each colony contained more than a million bacteria.

Opening and closing doors is an inevitable part of a person’s day, but practicing proper hand hygiene can drastically reduce the germs we intake. That was part of the message behind the “We Are… Healthy” campaign, held September 15 at Penn State Behrend.

The initiative was coordinated by Beth Potter, associate professor of biology, and her microbiology lab students. The students set up handwashing stations outside Bruno's and Burke Center. They also administered surveys they created and offered demonstrations, showing the importance of handwashing.

“I really wanted to add a service learning component to my course this year,” Potter said. “Most of my students want to do something in the health profession, and if you want to be in that profession, one of the easiest and most inexpensive things you can do is stress good handwashing. The average person does it for just six seconds, but we should really be doing it for at least 20.”

As part of the demonstration, students washed their hands for both six and 20 seconds, each time placing them under a blue light. They could then visualize the significant difference that comes from washing for a full 20 seconds.

Robert Miller, a sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major from Uniontown, believes one of the reasons people are not diligent about handwashing is because it’s not emphasized past preschool.

“As a child, you’re told to do it, but not why. Hopefully, by showing the reasons why you should wash your hands, students will have a better understanding of its importance,” Miller said.

Potter’s students also helped inform their peers about the University’s new immunization policy, which requires all students to have two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella immunizations. Students living in Behrend-owned housing also are required to have the meningococcal vaccine for serogroups A, C, W and Y.

The surveys were designed to gather information on the handwashing habits of Behrend’s current student body and will be used to write proposals for next year’s campaign.

As one of the students who coordinated this year’s campaign, Krieder has already seen his healthy habits change.

“Before, I would say it was just laziness on my part,” Krieder said. “But now, I easily wash my hands at least triple the amount that I used to.”