Dr. Eric Ford, a professor in the Bryan School of Business and Economics, as well as Forsyth Medical Center Distinguished Professor of Healthcare, was interviewed by the News & Record about his peer-reviewed research on hand-washing linked to visual cues.

According to the article, paper towel and soap use increased significantly when automatic paper towel dispensers in restrooms were set to “ready-to-use” mode — that is, with several inches of towel hanging down from the machine. Paper towel use increased by nearly 23 percent when the dispenser presented the towel, while soap use was 13 percent higher.

“People who have control over these machines should set them to display,” said Ford. “It’s just that simple.”

Ford’s research, “Increasing Hand Washing Compliance With a Simple Visual Cue,” was published online last month at the American Journal of Public Health’s website. It will appear in the journal’s print edition in February.

In a sustainability committee study conducted in the spring semester of 2012, Ford set up an experiment in eight bathrooms in the Bryan School that monitored how many people entered the facilities, as well as the weight, for example, of the paper towel rolls and soap dispensers. On the weeks that the machines had towels visible, hand-washing shot up, according to his research.

Ford recommends that bathroom facilities spend more money on paper towels and soap, as “they would increase their wash rates and decrease their flu rates. And nobody wants to get the flu.”