By Alwyn Poole

One of my initial degree courses was looking at the development of health practices that lead to the increases in human life expectancy. While many people think that antibiotics and vaccines have had the biggest impact the truth is that understanding the transmission of pathogens and therefore improving hygiene practices is easily the biggest influence.

The nature of schools makes them ripe for disease spread. I am not a panic artist at all but New Zealanders should reflect on what happened in 1918 where nearly 9,000 people lost their lives in just a few months. It remains, by far, our greatest natural disaster.

Principals in schools have a responsibility to provide for the health and safety of their staff and students. This disease could also have an impact on the families of both students and staff. Preventive habits are so much better that responding within a crisis.

Schools should already have in place:

  • Readily available hand sanitiser.
  • Clear communications to families that an ill child will stay home.
  • considerations to set aside a medical fund for families who may struggle financially to go to the doctor or ask for help (the Ministry should intervene here).
  • Ensuring every student has their own drink bottle.
  • Have hygienic practices with shared desks.

In our schools we are even considering following the pathogen avoiding patterns of Tour de France cyclists who great by touching elbows instead of shaking hands.

Habits take a while to form. Better to get ahead of the game.


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