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Hand washing is a powerful way to prevent the spread of disease.

The World Bank, the United Nations and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine did a study to urge hand washing around the world. They found that one million lives could be saved each year if people washed their hands with soap often. They said that programs to increase hand washing with soap could be among the most effective ways to reduce infectious disease.

Doctors say many diseases can be prevented from spreading by hand washing. These include pinworms, influenza, the common cold, hepatitis A, meningitis and infectious diarrhea.

Hand washing destroys germs from other people, animals or objects a person has touched. When people get bacteria on their hands, they can infect themselves by touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Then these people can infect other people.

The experts say the easiest way to catch a cold is to touch your nose or eyes after someone nearby has sneezed or coughed. Another way to become sick is to eat food prepared by someone whose hands were not clean.

The experts say that hand washing is especially important before and after preparing food, before eating and after using the toilet. People should wash their hands after handling animals or animal waste, and after cleaning a baby. The experts say it is also a good idea to wash your hands after handling money and after sneezing or coughing. And it is important to wash your hands often when someone in your home is sick.

The experts say the most effective way to wash your hands is to rub them together while using soap and warm water. They say you do not have to use special antibacterial soap. Be sure to rub all areas of the hands for about ten to fifteen seconds. The rubbing action helps remove germs. Then rinse the hands with water and dry them.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are rubbed into the hands and do not require soap and water. Experts say these products must contain at least sixty percent alcohol to be effective in killing most bacteria and viruses.

Experts also say that people who use public bathrooms and dry their hands with a paper towel should use the towel to turn off the water. Then, before throwing it away, use the same paper to open the bathroom door.

I'm Steve Ember.



A new study says the vast majority of unwanted pregnancies every year could be avoided if women had access to modern contraception. The findings appear in the online version of Human Reproduction.

The study used demographic and health surveys in 35 low and middle income countries. That represents one-third of the world’s population. It says 15 million of the 16.7 million unwanted pregnancies every year could be prevented.

Dr. Howard Sobel, one of the authors, is regional coordinator of the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent division at the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Regional Office.

“We looked at the risk of getting pregnant if they did not use any contraceptives," he said from the Philippines capital, Manila. "And we looked at the risk of getting pregnant if they used traditional methods like calendar rhythm method and withdrawal, meaning that before ejaculation the person pulls out. And we compared that to those that used modern methods.”

Modern methods include pills, implants, injectable contraceptives and IUD’s or intrauterine (đặt tử cung) devices. Sobel said many women who have unintended pregnancies face – what he calls -- a stark (ảm đạm) future.

“Let’s just take their life potential. For every child that you have in a poor family – it’s another mouth to feed, meaning that you have to spend more of the money toward that. Poor people end up having more difficulty in getting their children through school. They have higher dropout rates, lower educational potential and ultimately lower earnings potential. So, the cycle of poverty continues,” he said.

And then, there’s the health risk.

“We’re looking at a very high rate of increased risk for the mother of dying and being malnourished," he said. "We’re looking at the same type of risk for every child also. When you have undesired pregnancies it affects the family. It affects governments and it affects society. If we could address this then we could have a dramatic improvement in basically development worldwide.”

Sobel said that greater access to modern contraception would also result in a large drop in the number of abortions.

For the study women were asked to give the main reason for not using contraception.

“The top reasons are really around myths and misperceptions," Sobel said. "The number one and number two reason, which we lumped (gộp lại) together, is fear of side effects and health concerns. The risk is not very high of health effects. Certainly getting pregnant – it’s going to be something very taxing (đòi hỏi nỗ lực) for anybody. And if it’s an undesired pregnancy or two or three, that obviously has a bigger impact on health.”

Dr. Sobel said many of the modern contraceptives have a very low risk of side effects. Other reasons given for not using contraception include underestimating the risk of pregnancies, infrequent s.ex, the idea that pregnancy is determined by fate, religious oppositions, and concerns about the cost.

Joe DeCapua - Washington

Composed & Edited by Lê Quốc An
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