Communication toolkit on gastrointestinal diseases: How to support infection prevention in schools

Communication toolkit

This toolkit aims to support infection prevention in schools, with a focus on gastrointestinal diseases, by assisting EU/EEA countries in their communication initiatives for disease prevention in school settings. It encourages the school community to take a series of preventive measures in order to avoid the spread of gastrointestinal infections and outbreaks. It provides practical information and easily adaptable template materials that communicators in Member States' health authorities, working together with school authorities, can use and adapt for developing their own communication initiatives, in line with national, regional or local strategies and needs. This toolkit is a prototype to be used in pilot interventions, and the draft communication toolkit will reviewed and updated based on piloting results.

Executive summary

Schools are ideal settings to encourage hand washing and other good hygiene practices which can contribute to children and staff learning effective ways to prevent infections. Schools involve a large part of the population who are often in close proximity to one another and are settings where diseases can spread quickly. Effective communication in school settings can help to educate not only students and staff about good hygiene practices and other strategies, but also parents and other community members. Healthy behaviours learned in schools can contribute to future health and well-being.

Gastrointestinal diseases, for example, are common, very contagious and can be severe. They are a significant cause of school absenteeism (both students and teachers). An outbreak can lead to school closures and cause major disruptions for all members of the school community. Actively engaging the whole school community in identifying ways to comply with existing hygiene regulations and/or develop new strategies and action plans for disease prevention can build resilience. An implementation handbook provided with this toolkit details further how a ‘whole school’ approach shall be considered in order to engage with school communities to promote health.

This toolkit contains materials that can be used in support of whole school approaches to preventing infectious diseases in schools. An implementation handbook introduces key considerations on how health authorities can engage with school communities in order to raise awareness, inform about and encourage the implementation of key preventive measures for disease prevention. A set of communication materials is also provided, in order to help make specific communication activities on good hygiene practices for gastrointestinal disease prevention easier, more effective and affordable. The materials target different audiences, as all those involved in the school community can benefit from learning health generating behaviours and skills and have a role to play in either encouraging, supporting or implementing preventive measures. This includes not only teachers and pupils, but also the school authorities, the staff (e.g. cleaning and canteen staff, school nurses), parents and caregivers, as well as related stakeholders such as national and regional health and school authorities, and the local community.

Toolkit components

The toolkit includes an implementation handbook, a logo for communication activities, slogans, a list of key preventive measures, key messages, pictograms, prototype posters and PowerPoint presentations.


A logo has been developed to give materials a common visual identity. It can be used, if desired, on communication materials such as posters, leaflets, information sheets, etc.


‘Short and catchy’ messages are proposed that highlight key actions that different groups in the school can take in order to prevent the spread of gastrointestinal diseases. These slogans can be used in specific communication materials, such as a poster. A slogan can be used also in combination with other toolkit materials such as one or several pictogram(s). For school children an example of this could be:

Key messages

Building on these measures, a set of key messages is provided for key target audiences: school and health authorities, teachers and parents, children, and school staff. These key messages can be used when developing specific communication materials such as educational activities for pupils, leaflets, factsheets, etc.

List of key preventive measures

A comprehensive list with key preventive measures is included in the toolkit. These are evidence based and drawn from the ECDC technical report ‘Prevention of norovirus infection in schools and childcare facilities’. This list indicates different areas to be addressed to empower individuals and help them stay healthy and prevent infections, including:

  • Knowledge about gastroenteritis
  • Hand hygiene
  • Isolation and exclusion of affected individuals
  • Environmental cleaning and disinfection
  • Catering standards
  • Dealing with outbreaks

The list functions as a ‘checklist’ for schools to ensure that key preventive measures are in place. The list also indicates which priority audiences should be addressed and what information regarding specific measures could be most helpful for these.

Set of pictograms

The pictograms (see examples below) illustrate in an easily understandable way ten key preventive measures to avoid the spread of gastrointestinal diseases. Images are accompanied by a short text summarising the key actions. Communicators can select some or all of the images in order to develop specific communication materials, such as memory games for pupils, posters, leaflets, etc., depending on which audiences they wish to address. Below three examples of the pictograms are provided:

Powerpoint Presentations

The aim of the presentations is to inform about and empower specific audiences on gastrointestinal diseases, how these are transmitted and how they can be prevented. The slides can be used for educational purposes, for example during meetings in the schools with relevant audiences. The speaker’s note provided with the slides offer additional information to support the presenter during the delivery of the information.

Posters - Prototypes

The posters can be used as provided or can also serve as inspiration for schools/teachers/students developing their own communication materials, as they show how messages on key preventive measures can be conveyed to specific target audiences in a creative way, combining images and texts.

Who do you want to address?

  • Public Health authorities at national, regional and/or local level.
  • Educational authorities at national, regional and/or local level.
  • The school community includes not only pupils, teachers, but also the school authorities, cleaning and canteen staff, school nurses, parents and care givers as well as local organisations involved in after-school activities. A ‘whole school’ approach acknowledges that the whole school community is involved in the practice of health promotion and therefore health is built into all aspects of life at school for those who learn and work there.

What type of materials do you want to develop?

The toolkit materials include an implementation handbook, as well as a set of communication materials in order to help making specific communication activities for gastrointestinal disease prevention easier, more effective and affordable.

How to adapt the materials?

Our materials can be adapted according to your language, cultural specificities and campaign focus. The files are provided in:

  • PDF flattened format and JPEG for easy reproduction: this format can be used  to view the material and for printing purposes;
  • Adobe InDesign and Illustrator formats for professional use: this format can be used to modify the layout and/or the text;
  • Word files and PowerPoint presentations: this format can be used to facilitate translation in your language.

The toolkit is currently being piloted in three EU/EEA countries in order to assess its usability, adaptability and completeness. The results of this piloting will inform any needed revisions of the tools and content provided.

For further information and to send us feedback on the communication toolkit for prevention of gastrointestinal diseases, please contact

Implementation handbook

The implementation handbook is one of the components of the ECDC communication toolkit to support infection prevention in schools, with a focus on gastrointestinal diseases. It supports the practical implementation of international guideline recommendations on prevention of gastrointestinal disease outbreaks in school settings, synthesised in the ECDC technical report on Prevention of norovirus infection in schools and childcare facilities.


When encouraging actions for prevention and control of infectious diseases in school settings, it is useful to follow a strategic process as outlined below. The implementation handbook builds on these steps and gives some practical examples to aid in effective implementation of actions.


1. Engage the various stakeholders with a whole school approach, taking into account considerations when addressing schools communities as described in the implementation handbook. With management leadership establish a project team.


2. Assess and define objectives. Gather information on the current situation in the school community in regard to practices and factors that may be affecting compliance (for example, with existing hygiene regulations), as well as perceptions and behaviours of the school community related to gastrointestinal disease prevention. Define the objectives of the programme based on the insights gathered through the collection of information and analysis of the situation.


3. Develop an action plan. Building on your assessment, agree on an action plan with the whole school community. Identify target groups, i.e. the specific groups to be addressed and engaged in specified activities. Outline measures that need to be implemented to enhance the capacities of the school community to prevent gastrointestinal infections and to respond to outbreaks. Set priorities and agree on a timeframe, discussing responsibilities, resources and specific tasks, ensuring ongoing consultation and feedback in the process.


4. Take action. Implement the activities for enhancing capacities of the school community to prevent and control infectious diseases. Raise awareness, motivate and support needed behavioural changes. Disseminate information, develop communication activities with messages tailored to different audiences and select the most appropriate channels to reach them.


5. Evaluate. Monitor the implementation process and after the programme measures have been completed evaluate the results. What changes in current behaviours and practices were made? Which specific communication activities were particularly successful? What improvements are needed in the future?


Disclaimer and copyright notice:

This toolkit and the prototype products are provided for information purposes only and should not be interpreted as official advice from ECDC. This material has been created under a contract. ECDC is the copyright owner of the material created under contract, unless otherwise specifically indicated. In accordance with the copyright policy of the Centre, free use of the material for non-commercial purposes, is allowed without need of prior authorization and as long as ECDC logo or reference is included. Please be aware that certain parts of the material are licensed under conditions to the ECDC and, therefore, the licensed material shall not be used outside the specific purpose of the campaign. If a private entity is involved in any way in organizing, sponsoring or supporting by any other means the campaign, please be aware that use of the material is allowed as long as the purpose of the event is non-commercial.

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