Comparing the behavioural impact of a nudge-based handwashing intervention to high-intensity hygiene education: a cluster-randomised trial in rural Bangladesh

Trop Med Int Health. 2018 Jan;23(1):10-25. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12999. Epub 2017 Dec 1.


Objective: To determine the impact of environmental nudges on handwashing behaviours among primary school children as compared to a high-intensity hygiene education intervention.

Methods: In a cluster-randomised trial (CRT), we compared the rates of handwashing with soap (HWWS) after a toileting event among primary school students in rural Bangladesh. Eligible schools (government run, on-site sanitation and water, no hygiene interventions in last year, fewer than 450 students) were identified, and 20 schools were randomly selected and allocated without blinding to one of four interventions, five schools per group: simultaneous handwashing infrastructure and nudge construction, sequential infrastructure then nudge construction, simultaneous infrastructure and high-intensity hygiene education (HE) and sequential handwashing infrastructure and HE. The primary outcome, incidence of HWWS after a toileting event, was compared between the intervention groups at different data collection points with robust-Poisson regression analysis with generalised estimating equations, adjusting for school-level clustering of outcomes.

Results: The nudge intervention and the HE intervention were found to be equally effective at sustained impact over 5 months post-intervention (adjusted IRR 0.81, 95% CI 0.61-1.09). When comparing intervention delivery timing, the simultaneous delivery of the HE intervention significantly outperformed the sequential HE delivery (adjusted IRR 1.58 CI 1.20-2.08), whereas no significant difference was observed between sequential and simultaneous nudge intervention delivery (adjusted IRR 0.75, 95% CI 0.48-1.17).

Conclusion: Our trial demonstrates sustained improved handwashing behaviour 5 months after the nudge intervention. The nudge intervention's comparable performance to a high-intensity hygiene education intervention is encouraging.

Keywords: Bangladesh; behaviour change; changement de comportement; environmental nudge; essai contrôlé randomisé; handwashing; lavage des mains; nudge environnemental; primary school; randomised controlled trial; école primaire.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bangladesh
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hand Disinfection / methods*
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Soaps


  • Soaps