Essity Hygiene and Health Report 2023–2024: Prevention for Preparedness in Hygiene and Health

Advancing Health and Well-being: Through Care, Prevention, and Gender Equality
Nov 20, 2023 9:30 AM ET

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Prevention for preparedness in hygiene and health

Prevention helps save lives and facilitates equity and equality. Prevention measures including access to basic hygiene services are as essential for health systems and societies as they are for individuals. They help safeguard public health, minimize the spread of disease, and contribute to overall health and well-being in society. Prevention forms the bedrock for good health and well-being but also for preparedness to pandemics and other global disruptive health events. A solid prevention agenda is therefore key to healthy societies as much as it is to an overall preparedness to pandemics and similar responses.

There are significant beneficial societal and health outcomes and financial savings that can be unlocked by shifting to more proactive mindsets in society and our health systems.

Access to basic hygiene services at home or in public spaces is vital in terms of prevention. Investing in prevention through appropriate hygiene measures and services throughout society to ensure that communities and individuals are better prepared is key. Currently, more can be done to protect society from preventable ailments. This will have considerable impact on people’s well-being as well as for equality, and society’s productivity. Prevention for preparedness refers to policies and programs that aim to proactively make health systems more effective, resilient, sustainable, and economical.

Throughout the world, access to essential hygiene infrastructure is a key challenge. If zooming in on healthcare facilities, the WHO reports that as many as half of the healthcare facilities across the world lack basic hygiene services with water and soap or hand sanitizer rub in their restrooms. As many as 3.85 billion people use these facilities. If access to basic hygiene services is not in place, people are placed at greater risk of infection, including the 688 million people who receive care at facilities with no hygiene services at all.1

Within prevention and preparedness, there is a need to assess the necessary measures to embrace and enhance prevention. This includes behavioral changes in society going forward, how health systems can be strengthened to keep our societies healthy, and how to effectively respond to future challenges such as pandemics, including the silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). International cooperation is vital to exchange and raise knowledge and awareness, to identify measures and best practices for enabling health and well-being in everyday life, and to prevent global health threats. At the same time, the cost of reactive healthcare must be examined and compared to proactive and preventive societal measures.

SDG 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Prevention and preparedness drives progress to achieve several of the goal’s targets.

SDG 6. Ensure availability and sustainability of water and sanitation for all. Access to proper, safe, and dignified sanitation facilities and clean water is a cornerstone of preventative care. Ensuring that everyone has access to clean water and safe sanitation will reduce the incidence of water-borne disease and limit infections, driving progress to SDG 6.

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1Progress on WASH in health care facilities 2000–2021: special focus on WASH and infection prevention and control. Geneva: World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2023.