Changes in the behaviour of health-care workers (HCWs) are required to improve adherence to infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines. Despite heavy investment in strategies to change behaviour, effectiveness has not been adequately assessed. We did a systematic review to assess the effectiveness and sustainability of interventions to change IPC behaviour and assessed exploratory literature for barriers to and facilitators of behaviour change. 21 studies published from 1999 to 2011 met our inclusion criteria: seven intervention studies and 14 exploratory studies. Of the intervention studies none explicitly incorporated psychological theory and only two contained elements of social marketing in the design, although five addressed sustainability. All elicited behaviour change, reduction in infection risk, or both. The exploratory studies identified social and cultural factors that affect the IPC behaviour of HCWs. To improve the standard of research and broaden the evidence base, we recommend that quality criteria are added to existing systematic review guidelines to enable the inclusion of qualitative research and to ensure robust design, implementation, and reporting of interventions.
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