Professor starts ‘wash hands’ initiative

According to, it was recently estimated that there are about 76 million food born illnesses each year in the United States, which leads to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. The Web site proclaimed that government statistics indicate at least 25 percent of the illnesses are due to improper hand washing.

In another recent study on, only 58 percent of female and 48 percent of male secondary education students washed their hands after using the bathroom. The site also said that of these statistics, only 35 percent of the females and eight percent of the males used soap.

Professor Kaye Wilder now has a campaign to try and decrease the number of illnesses caused from not washing hands.

“It benefits the students and the community,” said Wilder, a professor in the Florida A&MUniversity School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.

The professor, along with the help of many others, has designed a hand-washing campaign for the Tallahassee community. Wilder was inspired after watching a taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show on hand washing. The episode indicated that it takes 15 seconds to wash germs off your hands. This became the basis of Wilder’s campaign in which she orchestrated posters and bookmarks with facts about germs and poems for children to recite while washing their hands for the 15 seconds.

Planning something such as a hand-washing campaign can take years to organize. It took Wilder two years to finally get her campaign up and running.

“Initially I had to establish the audience and doing the survey and find out who the target audience was,” Wilder said. “It took about a year to find partners, and a year to find funding and someone to print (the campaign).”

The target groups Wilder is campaigning to are students in kindergarten through fourth grade and those in middle school. According to research done by Fran Close, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, this age group had the highest numbers for being least likely to wash their hands.

Elementary school students will receive the “Sud-z and Germy” campaign. The campaign for middle school students is “All You Thought You Left was a Fingerprint.” This includes posters and bookmarks with the diseases you can receive on a fingerprint and what symptoms they can cause.

But this is just the beginning. Wilder said she has plans to take her campaign further then Tallahassee.

“I’ve already made proposals and pictures for a national campaign,” Wilder said.

According to Wilder, the campaign has no set date to end.

Even though it was Wilder who had the original idea, she said she was not able to do this campaign on her own. Wilder said local libraries and schools are going to put it into their regular health education programming. She also partnered with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, Leon County Schools and Gadsden County Schools for distribution. Wilder said she also had help with designing the campaigns from graphic designers Larry Sheffield and Darius White.

Wilder said she knows she can’t reach everybody, but she has an essential goal.

“If they (elementary school students) learn that poem, then they will wash their hands for 15 seconds.”

Some students agree that hand washing is important.

“A lot of germs are easily spread, especially (with) money-you don’t know what people have been touching,” said Dustin Bryson, a third year business administration student from St. Augustine.

Diseases that may result from not proper hand washing are: E. coli; bacteroids, which can cause ear infection; hepatitis, which causes diarrhea, and strep throat.

Contact Royce Wynn at