Friday, April 13, 2012

Wash Your Hands, Rhode Island!

Winter may be over, but germs don't pay attention to the calendar. The best way to prevent germs from spreading in any season is hand washing.

Wash Your Hands is the simple but effective title of a public health and awareness initiative to be launched in mid-April in schools statewide, and for Hand Washing Week in Rhode Island, April 15 through 21, 2012. The centerpiece of the initiative is a catchy tune by the same title. Wash Your Hands, composed by two-time GRAMMY® Award winning artist, Bill Harley, is a music video produced by WSBE Rhode Island PBS. The three-minute music video will debut on Rhode Island PBS at 9:30 A.M. on Saturday, April 14 (digital 36.1, Cox/Verizon/Full Channel 08; Dish 7776; DirecTV 36; Comcast 818HD).

”It’s very simple – washing your hands well is one of the easiest and best ways to avoid spreading germs,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “Bill Harley has done a wonderful job at making this crucial public health message fun and memorable for kids through his music. Art and music are two ways to make public health compelling in a world with many distractions.”

In addition to the music video, the outreach to schools includes colorful posters with the song's hand washing instructions “by the numbers,” as well as a Web site with links and more information at, which launches on April 14.

Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah A. Gist said of the initiative, “In order for our schools to be great places for teaching and learning, it’s important that our students come to school healthy and follow healthful practices. I am glad that Bill Harley and our friends at the Department of Health have reached out to our schools to inspire students to wash their hands for good health.”

When asked about the project, Bill Harley said, "I wrote this song to remind everyone, including myself, that the best way to stop the spread of disease is also the simplest way - something everyone can do - and that's to wash your hands." He added, “I'm so happy with the video and appreciate the collaboration with Rhode Island PBS and the Department of Health. I know this can make a difference."

Bill's back-up singers in the music video are elementary school students from the Paul Cuffee School and the Henry Barnard School, both in Providence. Dance steps were choreographed by Edgar Viloria from Everett Dance Works.

Bill first composed the music and lyrics for Wash Your Hands in 2009 when the H1N1 Swine Flu was making headlines. Students at the Paul Cuffee School at the time accompanied Bill in the recording. The song was uploaded to his Web site ( and was shared virally – so to speak – by pediatricians' offices and schools in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“We're proud to be a part of this fun, educational project and take it to a new level,” said David Piccerelli, president and CEO of WSBE. “When you watch the video, you can see that the kids and the adults had a great time making it. But behind all the fun is an important message, and producing Bill's song as a music video delivers that message in a new, visually engaging way.”

The children who appeared in the video were invited with their parents to WSBE studios on April 11 for a preview party with the production team. Featured speakers included Dr. Elizabeth Lange of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Margaret Sun of the Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians, and Dr. Alyn Adrain, president-elect of the Rhode Island Medical Society. Dr. Fine read a gubernatorial proclamation from Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee designating April 15 through 21 Hand Washing Week in Rhode Island; Dr. Fine presented the proclamation to school nurse Linda Mendonca, president of the Rhode Island Certified School Nurse Teachers organization. Food for the preview party was provided by Jersey Mike's Subs.

After the April 14th television premiere of the full-length video on Rhode Island PBS, a shorter, one-minute version will air throughout the day on WSBE's two channels, Rhode Island PBS and Learn.