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T.42 Routine Planning and Self-Regulation

Routines help with hygiene behaviour management and reinforce an action to become a habit. The planning of routines can be interactive, initially making Checklists (e.g. [T.20]) to monitor a repeated hygiene activity (like washing hands) until it becomes a habit.

In emergencies, the habits of households and communities are often disrupted as they find themselves in unfamiliar situations or surroundings. They are confronted with new hygiene challenges such as disease outbreaks and have to adapt to address them. The creation of new, daily hygiene routines such as handwashing, use of toilets and safe handling of food and water can take time. The systematic repetition of hygiene behaviours eventually turns them into a habit as the behaviour becomes automatic and done almost without thinking. The creation of routines can be integrated with peer group activities in institutions like schools T.50. Routines can be gender-specific e.g. women and teenage girls may have different hygiene routines related to menstruation. Routine Planning should be accompanied by the regular supply of materials such as soap for handwashing P.6. Including too many messages and tasks in a routine may confuse the target audience and undermine adherence. The ease and effectiveness of the routine is also important for transforming an activity into a habit. If the target audience can see an improvement in their living standards and health, it motivates them to stick to the habit. A hygiene schedule or plan can be provided for children to monitor their progress. Hygiene promoters should build the routine with the target communities using group activities or by providing checklists until the routine becomes a habit. Technology such as smartphones can be used for Routine Planning by setting Cues T.9 such as regular reminders from message groups.


The acute response phase does not provide a favourable environment for Routine Planning and habit formation because of instability and barriers such as lack of access to resources such as soap and hygiene kits P.6. Routine Planning is more applicable to other phases when there is a more stable environment and time to engage with the community to develop routines through group activities and self-help groups.


  • Keep routines simple and easy

  • Supervise children’s routine by adults initially – both in households and schools

  • Use Cues [T.9], e.g. in the form of Print Media [T.33], Checklists [T.20] and IEC Materials [T.19] to encourage routine adherence

  • Be sensitive about traditional and religious habits


  • Do not provide too much information on a checklist as it can make the routine arduous

  • Do not tackle several hygiene habits at the same time

Practical Example

In a Fit for School F.10 programme in Indonesia, special Routine Planning for Supervised Handwashing in schools T.50 was introduced to avoid the mixing of different age groups and overcrowding at handwashing stations. The routine is a measure for the safe reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cues and Nudges T.9 for physical distancing and face masks have also been incorporated in the form of posters to ensure compliance.  

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
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Protracted Crisis
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HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
Community Engagement and Participation
Assessment, Analysis and Planning
Social and Behaviour Change
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Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
Target Group
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Older People
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Persons with Disabilities
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Local Leaders
Society as a whole
Application Level
Individual / Household
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Community / Municipality
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Guide to changing habits

UNC (undated): Changing Habits