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The University of Southampton
Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Rhiannon Leighton

Rhiannon teaching the importance of handwashing


Rhiannon answered Professor Leighton's call for volunteers to help staff the NAMRIP stall at the 2017 Cheltenham Science Festival. Although a humanities scholar, studying for A-levels in Drama, English, History and Classics, Rhiannon appreciates the multidisciplinary approach required to address Anti-Microbial Resistance, and particularly the need to tell simple but truthful stories, in an age-appropriate way, to make best use of the time a member of the public, or child, will devote when shopping around between the hundreds of science stories on offer. Rhiannon subsequently volunteered for NAMRIP's Public Engagement activity as part of The University's Roadshow at Winchester Hat Festival, led by Steve Dorney. She is also giving feedback and input on the exciting year of Public Engagement Exhibits NAMRIP is planning for 2017. Rhiannon says:

"I had been fascinated by what was going on in NAMRIP, so jumped at the chance to help with its public engagement. In particular I feel it is very important to advertise key messages from NAMRIP to the younger generation. Public engagement is more than just showing people what you are doing - it really has value if they take away a message, and even change an attitude or behaviour long-term, and that only comes from having good messages delivered well. For example, many children and indeed adults, do not have the patience to wash their hands for 20 seconds, let alone wait the precious few seconds it takes to wait for the water to go warm. Without this patience, the risk of infection is higher, leading to increased use of antibiotics which will have therefore become less effective in coming years as superbugs that are resistant to them develop. By the relatively simple measure of washing your hands, the rise of this resistance can be delayed, giving us longer to find alternative ways of dealing with superbugs, and prolonging the effective lifetime of any drugs we have. So my goal in this area is to make effective hand washing a memorable habit in young people."

"As a public engagement supporter in NAMRIP, I enjoy teaching children about the importance of washing their hands under warm soapy water for 20 seconds to prevent the spread of pathogens. Worryingly, I find many children, and even adults, have never considered the dirtiness of something like the door of a toilet cubicle or the handrail of an escalator. The skin is very often an effective barrier to infection, so the message is not to become afraid of such surfaces, but to be aware that whilst the skin on your hands can prevent many infections, it can also carry them to your eyes, mouth, and any punctures in the skin, which are not such good barriers to infection. Spreading the knowledge, rather than the fear, of infection is essential in making children still able to live their lives- touching the door of a cubicle or the handle of an escalator- but in the knowledge that they MUST wash their hands afterwards. It is a very simple prevention strategy, but an essential one."

"NAMRIP is full of such stories. I don't think any research is too complicated to tell to an audience... the secret is in crafting and delivering an age-appropriate story that is truthful and memorable. I think every researcher needs to do some public engagement - it teaches so many lessons, to the person delivering it, and to the public if done effectively. If you are new to it, NAMRIP is a great place to start because you can be put in teams and learn the trade very quickly, and have a lot of fun."

Rhiannon is currently looking at universities to start an English degree next year.



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