BACKGROUND: Handwashing in the school setting is important for infectious disease control, yet maintaining adequate handwashing supplies is often made difficult by lack of funds, limited staff time, and student vandalism. This study measured the availability of handwashing supplies for students in New Mexico public schools and determined the impact of scheduled school nurse inspections on the availability of handwashing supplies.
METHODS: Participating school districts in New Mexico were matched by size and randomized into intervention and control groups. Baseline inspections were conducted in November 2008 followed by 2 subsequent bimonthly inspections. For each student bathroom, the presence or absence of soap and either paper towels or hand dryers was indicated on an inspection checklist. The intervention group reported findings to the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and to school administrative and custodial staff requesting that any identified problems be addressed. The control group reported inspection findings to the NMDOH only. Descriptive analyses were conducted to determine the proportion of bathrooms with soap and either paper towels or hand dryers. Comparisons were made between the intervention schools and the control schools at baseline and during the intervention period.
RESULTS: The intervention group had significantly higher probability of bathrooms being supplied with soap (p < .05) and paper towels/hand dryers (p < .02) during the intervention period.
CONCLUSIONS: Regularly scheduled school nurse inspections of hand hygiene supplies, with reporting to appropriate school officials, can improve the availability of handwashing supplies for students.