Volume 83, Issue 5
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Structured observation is often used to evaluate handwashing behavior. We assessed reactivity to structured observation in rural Bangladesh by distributing soap containing acceleration sensors and performing structured observation 4 days later. Sensors recorded the number of times soap was moved. In 45 participating households, the median number of sensor soap movements during the 5-hour time block on pre-observation days was 3.7 (range 0.3–10.6). During the structured observation, the median number of sensor soap movements was 5.0 (range 0–18.0), a 35% increase, = 0.0004. Compared with the same 5-hour time block on pre-observation days, the number of sensor soap movements increased during structured observation by ≥ 20% in 62% of households, and by ≥ 100% in 22% of households. The increase in sensor soap movements during structured observation, compared with pre-observation days, indicates substantial reactivity to the presence of the observer. These findings call into question the validity of structured observation for measurement of handwashing behavior.


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  • Received : 15 Dec 2009
  • Accepted : 15 Jun 2010
  • Published online : 05 Nov 2010

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