Hand Washing Matters : Interview with Epidemiologist Dr. Tralonda Triplett

Tralonda Triplett, PhD, MPH

Dr. Tralonda Triplett is celebrating 24 years of service as Co-Owner and Director of Operations for the Institute for Successful Leadership, Inc. Dr. Triplett leads ISL’s drive to foster comprehensive wellness—not just the absence of disease— in diverse populations across the lifespan and around the globe. Triplett completed undergraduate degrees in Business Administration from Clark Atlanta University, and Industrial and Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech. She is honored as a University of Michigan Bridges to the Doctorate Fellow, McKnight Doctoral Fellow, and Distinguished Alumna of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine where she earned her Master of Public Health and Doctorate of Epidemiology with Specialty in Public Health Ethics.

“Heal the people, heal the world”. Dr. Triplett’s signature approach to addressing individual- and group-level health risks simultaneously has served as a strong foundation to promote lifelong comprehensive wellness for all populations. Her warm and congenial personality and imaginative approaches have allowed for honest discussions to promote comprehensive wellness as a priority, not a luxury.


  • 1: What is your role and experience as an Epidemiologist? 
  • I completed my Master of Public Health and Doctorate of Philosophy in Epidemiology from the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.  For the past 24 years, I have served as Director of Operations and public health consultant for the Institute for Successful Leadership. As an epidemiologist, I research individual behaviors and social, cultural, and environmental factors contributing to health outcomes for communities of people.  I create interventions to reduce populations’ risks for disease and promote healthy qualities of life for everyone.


  • 2: What advice would you give to parents and caregivers of kids today?
  • While our social and living environments are constantly changing, one consistent factor is parents’ and caregivers’ responsibilities to protect the health and well-being of our children.  As such, it is imperative that parents and caregivers do their best to teach children how to maintain their safety and good health.  We do well to tell children how to accomplish this goal, but we do better when we show children how to accomplish it.  For example, among numerous health protections that are provided by hand washing, parents and caregivers today must highlight hand washing as a way to minimize children’s risks for COVID-19 infection.  Regardless of popular sentiments, parents and caregivers still have the greatest influence on children’s behaviors.  As parents and caregivers continue to show children that hand washing is important, children will begin to build strong habits for themselves.  Parents and caregivers hold the keys to improving kids’ behaviors to maintain their health and well-being throughout their lives. 


  • 3: How do people ensure that they have washed their hands to best prevent contact with virus and bacterial disease?
  • An essential component of effective hand washing is use of running, clean, water. Next, we apply adequate soap to wet hands.  Rubbing hands together palm-to-palm, lathering the backs, between fingers, and under finger nails of each hand for at least 20 seconds will maximize hand-washing effectiveness.  To ensure adequate duration of hand washing, consider singing the chorus of your favorite song while washing hands.  Some have confirmed singing “Happy Birthday” has allowed them to make sure they wash their hands long enough to be effective.  Finally, washed hands should be dried thoroughly on a clean towel or napkin.  If running water is not available, liquid hand sanitizer is a viable substitute as long as it does not contain methanol.  To prevent disease, hands should be washed frequently, approximately every 40 minutes, and more frequently if handling food, children, or items handled by other people.


  • 4: Do you feel visual reminders are helpful to ensure proper hand washing? Is there any research to link the importance of visual reminders such as in hospitals to encourage hand washing? 
  • Visual reminders are vital to ensure proper and frequent hand washing.  Particularly while in public, people can be easily distracted by a number of different factors.  Visual reminders can prompt us to recall our responsibilities to maintain hand hygiene and encourage us to wash our hands to protect our health and the health of others.  Studies show that visual reminders act as positive reinforcement and have strong associations with increasing frequency of hand washing in public areas.  Visual reminders in public can also support individuals’ beliefs that hand washing is a widely acceptable and correct behavior, and can encourage more people to wash their hands regularly outside their homes.  It is expected that hand washing at home is more comfortable and familiar, and therefore more easily accessible for individuals.  Whether in public or at home, visual reminders keep us all aware of our responsibilities to keep our hands clean and sanitary and to keep our health at the forefront of our daily activities.



  • 5: What else do you feel is important or critical to share with the community during this time, as related to hand washing.
  • The COVID-19 crisis has required us all to reassess and re-prioritize our approaches to protecting our health and safety.  We are all challenged to make the best decisions we can to respond to the permanent changes in our daily lives this pandemic has caused.  In the past, hand washing may have been considered a minor way to illustrate personal hygiene and cleanliness.  Now, hand washing has become vital to preventing COVID-19 infection which can cause severe illness and even death.  We have to become our own best defense from COVID-19 infection for ourselves and for our families.  We are all at risk, but we are not helpless.  We can protect ourselves from this virus, and it begins with our commitments to follow preventive measures and to wash our hands regularly and properly. The “new normal” is ours to create, so let’s build it with compassion, peace, and our health and well-being in mind!!


    Dr. Tralonda Triplett
    Tralonda Triplett, PhD, MPH
    Director of Operations
    Institute for Successful Leadership, Inc.