Volume 96, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Handwashing has been shown to considerably reduce diarrhea morbidity and mortality. To decontaminate hands effectively, the use of running water, soap, and various scrubbing steps are recommended. This study aims to identify the behavioral determinants of effective handwashing. Everyday handwashing technique of 434 primary caregivers in high-density suburbs of Harare, Zimbabwe, was observed and measured as an 8-point sum score of effective handwashing technique. Multiple linear and logistic regression analyses were performed to predict observed handwashing technique from potential contextual and psychosocial determinants. Knowledge of how to wash hands effectively, availability of a handwashing station with functioning water tap, self-reported frequency of handwashing, perceived vulnerability, and action planning were the main determinants of effective handwashing technique. The models were able to explain 39% and 36% of the variance in overall handwashing technique and thoroughness of handscrubbing. Memory aids and guided practice are proposed to consolidate action knowledge, and personalized risk messages should increase the perceived vulnerability of contracting diarrhea. Planning where, when, and how to maintain a designated place for handwashing with sufficient soap and water is proposed to increase action planning. Since frequent self-reported handwashing was associated with performing more effective handwashing technique, behavior change interventions should target both handwashing frequency and technique concurrently.


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  • Received : 05 Jul 2016
  • Accepted : 30 Oct 2016
  • Published online : 08 Feb 2017

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