Study shows proper hygiene can cut school absences

By Anna Valmero

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA - Daily hand washing and toothbrushing could reduce absenteeism among pre-school and grade school children and make them more alert in class, according to a study.

In particular, the study noted that absenteeism can be reduced by 27 percent  and proper hygiene can also help prevent “under nutrition” among schoolchildren.

The Essential Health Care Program (EHCP) of the Department of Education - in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Fit For SChool Inc. and Procter and Gamble - highlights the importance of proper hygiene among schoolchildren to keep them healthy and more alert in class.

In essence, EHCP is a low-cost preventive “intervention” of DepEd and its partners to reduce by  half the incidence of infectious diseases among pre-school and elementary students, and reduce overall absenteeism.

The successful pilot program will be adopted in ten provinces nationwide namely: Northern Samar Governor Paul Daza and partners at Erenas, Victoria. Aurora, Tarlac, Camarines Norte, Guimaras, Antique, Cebu City, Davao City, Zamboanga del Sur and Sarangani.

“We are happy that our local government partners have shown their commitment to their children. This program will not only teach children healthy habits but also make them an instrument in teaching these healthy habits when they come home after school,” said Tim Grieve, UNICEF Philippines water and sanitation chief.

The program covers 3,000 schools and aims to improve the learning capabilities of one million pupils pursuant to achieving child-friendly schools under the Millennium Development Goals.

A major factor that directly affects a kid's staying power and performance in school is his state of health and nutrition. For example, toothaches and diarrhea are among the common ailments that cause children to miss classes.

About seven in 10 children aged three- to 12-years-old suffer from intestinal worms due to improperhand washing before eating, which leads to diarrhea and under-nutrition.

Meanwhile, not brushing the teeth at least twice a day resulted in at least 97 percent of six-year-olds and 81 percent of 12- year-olds to suffer from dental cavities and toothache. School-based fluoride programs lead to a 40 to 50 percent reduction in new tooth decay, according to researches conducted during the pilot of EHCP.

Proper hand washing of about a minute is the single most effective way to curb intestinal worm infestation and avoid respiratory and diarrhea-related diseases, such as coughs, colds, cholera and dysentery, according to the study.

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