A cross-sectional survey assessing the influence of theoretically informed behavioural factors on hand hygiene across seven countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.BMC Public Health. 2021 07 21; 21(1):1432.BP
Human hygiene behaviours influence the transmission of infectious diseases. Changing maladaptive hygiene habits has the potential to improve public health. Parents and teachers can play an important role in disinfecting surface areas and in helping children develop healthful handwashing habits. The current study aims to inform a future intervention that will help parents and teachers take up this role using a theoretically and empirically informed behaviour change model called the Capabilities-Opportunities-Motivations-Behaviour (COM-B) model.
A cross-sectional online survey was designed to measure participants' capabilities, opportunities, and motivations to  increase their children's handwashing with soap and  increase their cleaning of surface areas. Additional items captured how often participants believed their children washed their hands. The final survey was administered early in the coronavirus pandemic (May and June 2020) to 3975 participants from Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Participants self-identified as mums, dads, or teachers of children 5 to 10 years old. ANOVAs analyses were used to compare participant capabilities, opportunities, and motivations across countries for handwashing and surface disinfecting. Multiple regressions analyses were conducted for each country to assess the predictive relationship between the COM-B components and children's handwashing.
The ANOVA analyses revealed that India had the lowest levels of capability, opportunity, and motivation, for both hand hygiene and surface cleaning. The regression analyses revealed that for Australia, Indonesia, and South Africa, the capability component was the only significant predictor of children's handwashing. For India, capability and opportunity were significant. For the United Kingdom, capability and motivation were significant. Lastly, for Saudi Arabia all components were significant.
The discussion explores how the Behaviour Change Wheel methodology could be used to guide further intervention development with community stakeholders in each country. Of the countries assessed, India offers the greatest room for improvement, and behaviour change techniques that influence people's capability and opportunities should be prioritised there.