In many health facilities in low-resource settings, it is not unusual to find blood samples left on window sills in labs; medical waste disposed of in cardboard boxes and pit latrines; rusty, unsterilized equipment in maternity wards; and other unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Improving infection prevention practices in health care settings reduces the risk that clients, their families, and health workers will acquire and transmit potentially life-threatening infections after accidental exposure to blood and bodily fluids or contaminated objects.
Recognizing infection prevention as an integral part of quality service delivery, Jhpiego has dedicated its efforts over the last decade to advocating for and implementing evidence-based standards for infection prevention in more than 40 countries. By providing leadership for the development of comprehensive national policies and guidelines in countries such as in Ethiopia and Zambia, and by systematically integrating infection prevention into in-service training, pre-service education, and service delivery in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and other countries, Jhpiego has worked with ministries of health to ensure that their citizens receive care in clean, safe facilities. In Uganda, Jhpiego supported infection prevention strengthening in 12 health facilities in Isingiro District, helping to ensure that 180,000 Ugandans had a lower risk of acquiring health facility-borne infections.
In 2003, Jhpiego developed a widely used manual, Infection Prevention Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities with Limited Resources, which offers guidance for hospitals and other facilities that provide general, medical, surgical, and obstetric services. In countries such as Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda, Jhpiego has also introduced standards-based management and recognition (SBM-R), a quality improvement approach that helps health facilities institutionalize the processes of effective hand hygiene, instrument processing, and waste management to reduce health care-associated infections and minimize environmental pollution.
In country after country, Jhpiego has found that even in clinics with the most limited resources, improving infection prevention is one of the most easily attainable, highest impact lifesaving interventions. Jhpiego has supported countries in identifying and using simple, locally available solutions, such as locally manufactured personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer that can be made in the health facility, simply by mixing 2 mL glycerin and 100 mL of alcohol. The emphasis on low-cost, sustainable approaches has led to a “can-do” ethos among providers who are trained and thus empowered to protect themselves and their clients.
Having seen that strengthening infection prevention practices results in clean hospital wards and health providers adequately protected against potential infection, Jhpiego continues to advocate for and support infection prevention practices in all of its programs.