National Geographic : 2010 Apr
PHOTO: MARK THIESSEN, NG STAFF HEALTH Health in Your Hands The children are excited and giggling. It seems like a game---stand by a sink and scrub your hands. But in the poorest parts of Karachi, Pakistan, the lesson is vital for disease prevention, and the teachers get great results. After a few sessions, says public health expert Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla, "the mothers tell us children are constantly washing hands at home, many times a day." And not just their own: "They're making their brothers and sisters wash their hands too." That ripple effect helps save lives. Washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds costs pennies--- and when done properly, slashes the rates of infections, such as pneumonia and diarrheal diseases, that kill more than 3.5 million kids under age five worldwide every year. Recent studies of hand-washing habits in the United States and United Kingdom point up another problem. Adults---especially men---tend not to scrub when they should or as often as they claim. They'd do well to learn a thing or two about hand hygiene from Karachi's kids. ---Hannah Bloch Hand washing with soap is the most effective everyday way to limit the spread of disease.