Posted By Monique Dever On September 9, 2014

Are fist-bumps the new handshake for public health?

fist-bump to prevent transfer of infectious disease


How local health departments can have fun reducing the spread of infections!

The handshake, thought by some to have originated as a gesture of peace, is on its way out. This ancient form of greeting has been practiced as far back as the 5th century BC. So why is there a push to ban the common handshake in hospitals? For the sole purpose of public health.

The general population can substantially reduce the risk of transmitting infectious diseases simply by opting for a fist-bump over a handshake. There are many individuals who already refuse to shake hands because of germ transference; usually with social risks. However, a UK study conducted by the Aberystwyth University supports this behavior. The study, showed that handshakes transferred 50% more germs than a high five, and about ten times that of a fist-bump. This is because a fist bump has less surface area and the contact duration is shorter.

For good reason, the handshake has been scrutinized lately by the medical research community. “People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands. If the general public could be encouraged to fist-bump, there is genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.” Said Dr. Whitworth, PHD, Senior lecturer at Aberystwyth University. He further stated “It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake; however, for the sake of improving public health we encourage further adoption of the fist-bump as a simple, free, and more hygienic alternative to the handshake.”

So what can local health departments do to help keep their community healthy? We have some ideas you could consider!

  • Discuss fist-bumps at your next staff meeting to see how it could be beneficial. Make the meeting fun by practicing with the people sitting near you. Then make it a habit by practicing fist-bumps as you pass one another in the halls. Your Communicable Disease team may even like this enough to adopt this as a pilot.
  • Educate the community by sharing this information with your board of health members, include it in your newsletters and post in patient waiting areas at your facilities.
  • Spread the word through social media. Simply click this share button to publish to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or your favorite social site. You can even post this link on your website. Feel free to copy this article – no need to ask permission and no credits required!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 80 percent of all infections are transmitted through hands. So, adoption of the fist-bump could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious disease between individuals. So have fun with it; it’s common sense for public health!

About Monique Dever

Monique integrates research and networking with her passion for health and well-being to provide important, up-to-date news, resources and current events to the public health communities. She is the Marketing Executive for Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.