Barriers to and motivators of handwashing behavior among mothers of neonates in rural Bangladesh.BMC Public Health 2018; 18(1):483BP
To design a maternal handwashing intervention for the newborn period, this qualitative study explored drivers of handwashing among mothers and other caregivers of neonates and infants in two rural areas of Bangladesh.
We conducted 40 semi-structured observation sessions to observe handwashing behaviors of primiparous and multiparous mothers of neonates, and to understand the contextual factors that facilitated or hampered those behaviors. We then conducted 64 interviews with mothers of neonates and mothers of infants and 6 group discussions with mothers of infants, other female caregivers and fathers to explore perceptions, beliefs, and practices related to handwashing in the neonatal period. Based on a conceptual model and the Theory of Reasoned Action/Theory of Planned Behavior, we developed a conceptual model a priori, we performed thematic analysis to explain determinants of maternal handwashing behaviors.
We conducted 200 h of observation among mothers of neonates. The age range of participating mothers varied between 17 and 25 years and their maximum education was up to 10th grade of schooling. Mothers, other female caregivers and fathers perceived a need to wash hands with or without soap before eating or before feeding a child by hand to prevent diarrhea. Mothers expressed the importance of washing their hands before holding a baby but were rarely observed doing so. All respondents prioritized using soap for visible dirt or feces; otherwise, water alone was considered sufficient. Lack of family support, social norms of infrequent handwashing, perceptions of frequent contact with water as a health threat and mothers' restricted movement during first 40 days of neonate's life, and childcare and household responsibilities adversely impacted handwashing behavior.
Addressing emotive drivers of handwashing within existing social norms by engaging family members, ensuring handwashing facilities and clarifying neonatal health threats may improve maternal handwashing behavior in the neonatal period.