Pilot of an Elementary School Cough Etiquette Intervention: Acceptability, Feasibility, and Potential for Sustainability

Farhana Sultana International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh;

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Fosiul A. Nizame International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh;

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Dorothy L. Southern International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh;

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Leanne Unicomb International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh;

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Peter J. Winch Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland;

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Stephen P. Luby International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh;
Stanford University, Stanford, California

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Schools convene many people together for a prolonged time, facilitating spread of respiratory pathogens and amplifying epidemics. Crowded Bangladeshi schools lack the infrastructure to support optimal cough etiquette behaviors. We collected formative data on current practices from four elementary schools, and developed and piloted a low-cost cough etiquette intervention, promoting coughing and sneezing into upper sleeves at four additional schools. We trained teachers to lead behavior change sessions during regular hygiene classes for 4 weeks. We evaluated intervention acceptability, feasibility, and potential for sustainability at 1 month and at 14 months after the intervention commenced. At baseline, among 63 observed students, 58 (92%) coughed/sneezed into open air, five (8%) covered coughs/sneezes with their hands, which were not subsequently washed with soap and water as they judged this infeasible. After 4 weeks, among 70 observed students, 27 (39%) coughed/sneezed into upper sleeves, 33 (47%) into open air, and 10 (12%) covered with hands. After 14 months, among 230 observed students, 13 (6%) used upper sleeves, 154 (67%) coughed/sneezed into open air, and 59 (26%) covered with hands. Students reported that coughing/sneezing into upper sleeves was simple and protected them and their classmates from germs. This school-based intervention was acceptable and feasible, and resulted in short-term reductions in coughing/sneezing into open air, but these habits of comparatively new behavior were not sustained as teachers ceased behavior change session delivery. Strategies to support longer-term adoption of habits should be considered.

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Author Notes

Address correspondence to Farhana Sultana, Environmental Interventions Unit, Infectious Disease Division, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, 68 Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Sarani, Mohakhali, Dhaka-1212, Bangladesh. E-mail: farhana.sultana@icddrb.org

Financial support: This study was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Authors’ addresses: Farhana Sultana, Fosiul A. Nizame, Dorothy L. Southern, and Leanne Unicomb, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Mohakhali, Dhaka, Bangladesh, E-mails: farhana.sultana@icddrb.org, fosiul@icddrb.org, dorothysouthern2016@gmail.com, and leanne@icddrb.org. Peter J. Winch, Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MA, E-mail: pwinch@jhu.edu. Stephen P. Luby, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, E-mail:sluby@stanford.edu.

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