This weekend marked the release of the Global Hygiene Council’s “Small Steps for Big Change” report, which revealed the tragic reality that over three million children under five years old die from preventable infectious diseases each year.

Professor John Oxford, the Council Chair, explained in a press release: “Poor personal hygiene and home hygiene practices are widely recognized as the main causes of infection transmission for colds, influenza, and diarrhea.”

As tragic as the numbers may be, the good news is that these child deaths can be stopped with some basic education and simple lifestyle changes.

The council’s report was accompanied by a five-step plan developed by medical experts, ranging from pediatricians to infectious disease specialists, intended to improve everyday hygiene practices through small changes. 

Step One: Improve Hygiene Worldwide.

According to Professor Oxford, the most effective first line of defense is improved hygiene. Improving hygiene worldwide could help to reduce the 2.7 million deaths of children in their first month of life.

Step Two: Wash Hands with Soap and Clean Running Water

Washing hands thoroughly with soap and clean running water could reduce diarrheal infections by up to 50% globally.

Step Three: Improve Food & Kitchen Hygiene

220 million children suffer from food and diarrheal disease yearly. Engaging in safe food handling, storage, etc. would greatly reduce the instance of death from these preventable infectious diseases sourced in the kitchen.

Step Four: Hygienically Cleaning Frequently-Touched Surfaces

Cleaning frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs can interrupt the spread of cold and flu viruses before they threaten the lives of children.

Step Five: Improve All Around Hygiene

Improving personal hygiene as a whole — like bathing often and brushing teeth — can lower instances of infection and reduce the need for antibiotics, the resistance to which is projected to result in the loss of ten million lives by 2050.