In a new program titled "The Heart of Healthcare," the Association for the Healthcare Environment and Kimberly-Clark Professional are teaming up to honor environmental services professionals for the role they play in supporting patient safety.

Many experts believe that for hospitals to achieve their potential for reducing health care-associated infections (HAIs), two steps are essential.

First, environmental services (ES) teams and infection prevention professionals will need to work together more closely to improve cleaning practices and enhance patient safety. Second, ES teams need to be recognized and valued by hospital leadership and clinicians for the vital role they play in reducing HAIs.

Two new programs aimed squarely at addressing these important issues were launched in late September at the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) annual conference.

In its "Clean Spaces, Healthy Patients" campaign, AHE and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) are teaming up to improve patient outcomes and reduce infections. The program, funded by a grant from Clorox Professional Products Co., will incorporate educational resources, training materials and other solutions to help infection prevention and ES leaders combat HAIs.

Information about the program can be found at The online toolkits, which will be free to APIC and AHE members, should be available in the first quarter of 2012.

"As the government and accrediting bodies increase scrutiny in this area, rigorous environmental cleaning becomes even more important," says Bill Rutala, Ph.D., MPH, C.I.C., clinical advisor to APIC and director of hospital epidemiology, Occupational Health & Safety program at the University of North Carolina Health Care, Chapel Hill. "There are well-established guidelines for cleaning and disinfection, and making this information available is vital."

In a separate program, AHE has teamed with Kimberly-Clark Professional to launch "The Heart of Healthcare" campaign to honor ES departments and the role they play in supporting patient safety initiatives. The program will consist of a national education program that recognizes the work of ES departments, provides advice from experts in the field and offers support tools for those new to the field.

"Kimberly-Clark is excited to partner with AHE on this campaign to recognize the highly meaningful, yet often less publicly visible, impact that ES professionals have on the safety and the quality of health care," says Laura Ball, marketing manager of health care at Kimberly-Clark Professional.

Patti Costello, executive director of AHE, says her organization has long wanted to begin a recognition program for ES professionals and says the support of Kimberly-Clark made that possible.

"We are proud to salute our members and all ES professionals with this well-deserved recognition," Costello says. "It honors the important contribution they make to enhance the safety of care and their commitment to patients and residents of long-term care communities."

National advertising in health care publications kicked off the campaign and ES departments will be able to apply for an award that will be given as part of the program. Information about the award program can be found on the AHE website at Simply click on The Heart of Healthcare logo to access information.

The first-place winner will receive a crystal award, a one-year AHE membership and may be featured in a Heart of Healthcare advertisement.