Self-report normally requires data collection staff to conduct a survey with participants about their handwashing practices, access to handwashing facilities or the things that enable or prevent them from practicing handwashing. Similar self-reported questions can be developed for other behaviours such as mask use or physical distancing.

Benefits of self-report:

  • The easiest way to measure handwashing and other COVID-19 preventative behaviours.
  • Relatively quick to gather.
  • Does not require highly trained data collectors.
  • Can be done in person or remotely, if movement restrictions are in place.
  • Can be used to monitor trends over time.

Limitations of self-report:

  • This measure of handwashing is the most prone to bias because it is subjective – it relies on people reporting their own handwashing behaviour. Since handwashing is a socially desirable behaviour (particularly at this time) people are likely to over-report their behaviour.
  • Handwashing behaviour is also a routine behaviour for many and so it is not that easy to remember exactly when it was performed. Therefore, people may not accurately recall information such as how many times they wash their hands per day with a great deal of accuracy.

Recommendations for use during COVID-19:

  • Self reported measures of behaviour are recommended as a way to triangulate findings from spot checks and/or structured observations (where possible) and in situations where it is not safe or possible to perform any of the other data collection methods such as structured observation or spot-checks at households or public facilities.
  • If using self-reported measures, try to think carefully about how behavioural questions are asked so that bias can be minimised. For more information on different ways of doing this read this resource.

Want to learn more about adapting hygiene project outcome measures for COVID-19 response?

Editor's Note

Authors: Fiona Majorin and Julie Watson
Review: Deepak Saxena, Katie Greenland, Hans Mosler, Dr Robina Shaheen
Last update: 11.06.2020

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