I started my career as an ICU nurse many years ago. I spent my days surrounded by technology and very critically ill people. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Code Black, and many others lead us to believe this is what the “high end” of healthcare looks like. Over the past decade as my mind and my heart have transitioned to international health, I have gained a whole new understanding of impact.
Impactful health interventions are not necessarily the most technologically advanced and they are often things we take for granted. Handwashing is an important example of impactful. Did you know that handwashing is one of the most important public health interventions in the world? According to world health authorities, “every year, 1.7 million children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhea and pneumonia. Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent these diseases. This simple behavior can save lives, cutting diarrhea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter. Handwashing with soap impacts not just health and nutrition, but also education, economics, and equity.”*
During October we will be celebrating Global Handwashing Day in several of our countries. As I was worshipping with my church this Sunday, we sang The Newsboys’ great song He Reigns. I love the first verse, “It’s the song of the redeemed, rising from the African plain. It’s the song of the forgiven, drowning out the Amazon rain. The song of Asian believers, filled with God’s holy fire.” As we sang it I pictured the children we serve around the world learning new skills and obtaining new resources so they can have the health and energy to celebrate and be the redeemed. Our children in Liberia, India, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and many other places will be those voices as they learn to care for the bodies God has given them.
Sometimes we don’t make the link between simple yet impactful health interventions and sending glory to our Lord. I have no doubt our Lord is smiling each time we help children learn to protect their health and the health of their families. As we teach our children, they teach their families, and entire communities get healthier!
Want to give children the resources they need to practice proper handwashing? This Christmas, you will have an opportunity to help provide entire communities with handwashing stations. Our annual Christmas Gift Catalog will be appearing in the mail and online in November, so make sure you keep an eye out for it!