Superbugs, MRSA and the threat of an influenza pandemic may send some people running for the hills, but Forth Valley NHS has devised a novel way to engage the public to help beat infections.
Working together with local schools and councils in spring 2007, NHS Forth Valley sponsored a poster competition for children aimed at educating people to 'cover their coughs?.
Local planning for an influenza pandemic had highlighted the need for health education about infection control to protect vulnerable groups like children and older adults.
A need was identified for new posters to display in GP practices and public places. These posters aimed to remind people to cover their coughs and sneezes properly and prevent spread of respiratory infection.
Following a consultation with a local public patient panel two years ago, the poster project grew out of the need for innovative approaches to prevent and control infections.
Every year, an infection control nurse arranged education sessions at nurseries, local education departments and schools to highlight the message. Work was also carried out with school nurses and environmental health officers.
But last year, the infection control team decided to combine their education sessions with the poster competition.
Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling Councils became involved in the initiative and invited all local schools to enter the competition.
Children aged 5 to 12 years were asked to design an A4 poster on one of two themes: 'Wash your hands' or 'Cover your cough?.
Local businesses were recruited to help with sponsorship of the competition and an artist was drafted in, along with patient representatives and infection control nurses, to judge the competition.
Twelve children?s artwork was chosen and the winners received their prizes from the chief executive of NHS Forth Valley at a local community centre.
In addition, all children in the competition winners? classes were given 'fluffy bugs? as consolation prizes and participating schools received gift tokens.
Artwork on display
The prize-winning posters have been mounted for display on boards and are being circulated to major NHS venues in Forth Valley as well as being available for loan to other sites.
Plans for the coming year include displaying the posters at hospitals and GP surgeries in the region. In order to maintain a high profile, new posters will be displayed regularly and the public kept up to date with information on infection control.
There are also plans to publish the posters on calendars, which will be available in GP surgeries and local hospitals to keep the focus on the important message.
A second competition will run in 2008.
Sarah Murdoch, MPH, BA, SRN, ENB Cert 329 (Infection Control), is a
public health infection control nurse, NHS Forth Valley
On behalf of the working group
Sybil Solomon, lead infection control nurse, Primary Care Operating Division, NHS Forth Valley
Tom Whyte, patient focus public involvement co-ordinator, NHS Forth Valley
Margo Biggs, patient representative, NHS Forth Valley