Pilot of an elementary school cough etiquette intervention: Acceptability, feasibility, and potential for sustainability

Farhana Sultana, Fosiul A. Nizame, Dorothy L. Southern, Leanne Unicomb, Peter J. Winch, Stephen P. Luby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Schools convene many people together for a prolonged time, facilitating spread of respiratory pathogens and amplifying epidemics. Crowded Bangladeshi schools lack the infrastructure to support optimal cough etiquette behaviors. We collected formative data on current practices from four elementary schools, and developed and piloted a low-cost cough etiquette intervention, promoting coughing and sneezing into upper sleeves at four additional schools. We trained teachers to lead behavior change sessions during regular hygiene classes for 4 weeks. We evaluated intervention acceptability, feasibility, and potential for sustainability at 1 month and at 14 months after the intervention commenced. At baseline, among 63 observed students, 58 (92%) coughed/sneezed into open air, five (8%) covered coughs/sneezes with their hands, which were not subsequently washed with soap and water as they judged this infeasible. After 4 weeks, among 70 observed students, 27 (39%) coughed/sneezed into upper sleeves, 33 (47%) into open air, and 10 (12%) covered with hands. After 14 months, among 230 observed students, 13 (6%) used upper sleeves, 154 (67%) coughed/sneezed into open air, and 59 (26%) covered with hands. Students reported that coughing/sneezing into upper sleeves was simple and protected them and their classmates from germs. This school-based intervention was acceptable and feasible, and resulted in short-term reductions in coughing/sneezing into open air, but these habits of comparatively new behavior were not sustained as teachers ceased behavior change session delivery. Strategies to support longer-term adoption of habits should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1876-1885
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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