This information provided by the Food, Pool & Lodging Health and Safety Section of the Center for Health Protection.
After finding handwashing to be the #1 out of compliance item statewide during the Oregon Baseline Risk Factor Study in 2002, the DHS Foodborne Illness Prevention Program decided to make improving handwashing statewide an active part of our existing program goals. Focus groups shed light on the issues food service workers and managers perceived to be barriers to handwashing in their facilities. Some items were addressed in rule change, like restoring missing soap and paper towels at a designated handsink as a critical violation. Others, such as creating a meaningful approach to target food service workers took more time for the research and focus group testing.
Using funding from the CDC EHS-Net program grant, professional social marketers and graphic artists were hired to create an intervention targeting food service workers to impact their behavior regarding handwashing. This endeavor, called the Handwashing Legends Project (HLP), involves spreading a meaningful story about the consequences of poor handwashing to each licensed restaurant in Oregon. The success of this intervention depends on inspectors providing an illustration telling a true story of a handwashing-related outbreak to each operator during their routine inspection, along with some discussion about the importance of handwashing to prevent foodborne illness.
The illustrations were posted in each restaurant's main kitchen handwashing sink in two phases corresponding with their semi-annual inspections. When all the facilities have had the two consecutive illustrations posted in their business for a year, we will draw a random sampling of restaurants to use for our follow-up statewide Risk Factor Study. Upon completion of this second study in 2010, we will be able to see if there is a measurable increase in proper handwashing statewide. Because this is such an innovative project, we plan to prepare an article for publication, as well as sharing our results with all other interested states and the Food and Drug Administration.
In May 2010, Oregon was featured in an FDA satellite broadcast titled, "Using Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Measures" to prevent foodborne illness in the the retail food environment.
Our Handwashing Legends Project spurred a national project called the FDA Oral Culture Learner Project. Click here to read more about this exciting project and to download their materials. A recent article published in the Florida Restaurant and Lodging newsletter also highlights the FDA project.
Original HLP materials:
*Thank you to Tak (Sam) Ho and his son, David Ho of OM Seafood Co & Restaurant in Portland, OR for providing these Chinese translations free-of-charge and to Multnomah County Environmental Health for facilitating the translation to help spread the message.
Thank you to BehaviorWorks and HappyLucky of Portland for their help in creating and designing our illustrations!
Please call Erica Van Ess at 971-673-0446 with any questions about the project and its implementation.
Funding: EHSNET, EHSB, NCEH, CDC