Cleanliness is Next to Healthiness

Annie Heathorn


It has been said that cleanliness is next to godliness.

Whether or not that statement is true, cleanliness is certainly next to healthiness.

Briggs identifies lack of hygiene to be a major cause of the devastating cholera outbreak in Latin America. Cholera is an infection in the small intestine that causes dehydration and can kill an adult of dehydration in as few as ten hours.  Briggs claims these deaths resulted from the inadequacies of medical services and their neglect in educating their people about cleanliness and about the disease.  Communities with the worst sanitation, cholera spread like wild fire.

Like Cholera, diarrheal disease kill its victims of dehydration and the gastrointestinal infections are highly contagious.  These pathogens spread through dirty hands, contaminated food and water, pets, and direct contact with fecal matters. Because of this, diarrheal viruses quickly pass through a household and entire community, especially if sanitation is poor. Research shows that improved sanitation, water disinfection and hygiene achieves a 30-50% reduction of diarrheal disease.

Intentional action to improve hygiene will have significant success in action against diseases such as cholera and diarrheal diseases. Primarily, communities need continuous safe water supply, and sanitation facilities to dispose of feces, as well as technologies and to improve household hygiene.  Hygiene improvement involves efforts both on the part of authorities as well as individuals.

2 thoughts on “Cleanliness is Next to Healthiness

  1. I agree with you that with improve sanitation and hygiene will help prevent Cholera outbreaks in areas with poor sanitation. However, in order to create these sanitation and hygiene improvements will require intervening with the indigenous culture. For example, the Warao of Venezuela explained the Cholera outbreaks as punishment by the spirits. If we tell them they are wrong and that the reason for all the deaths were because they were dirty, how do you think they would react?

    I agree that they definitely need to improve their hygiene, but I don’t think we should do everything for them. I feel we should supply them with education and knowledge about their environment and ways to improve their living conditions. Encourage them to make the changes themselves and build the water sanitation systems themselves. The reason I say this is because if we intervene , they will become dependent and expect aid whenever they need it instead of finding their own solutions.

  2. I thought this was an excellent connection to your topic as both cholera and diarrheal disease have many similar initiators. Stigmas against diseases such as cholera and diarrheal disease reduce the amount of support rural regions are receiving to improve overall sanitation, provide clean water, and promote good hygiene. Briggs points out that in Venezuela, public health institutions and government officials neglected to conduct their civic duties and instead racialized the disease and placed the blame on the victims. The racialization by health officials actually reduced the much needed resources to these targeted areas. A 50% decrease in the prevalence of these diseases is huge, but public health officials and government institutions need to get on board and improve hygiene in the areas were support is needed most.

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