UCLA study shows many parents not getting antibiotic message

A new UCLA study shows efforts to teach parents that antibiotics are not necessary to treat their childs cold are failing to reach the Latino and Asian communities, and that educational campaigns need to be revamped to connect with these groups.

The findings, being presented May 6 at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Baltimore, Md., also show that despite current educational efforts, physicians continue to prescribe antibiotics if they feel pressure from parents.

We know that patients with respiratory illnesses receive antibiotics 30 percent of the time. However, 55 percent of antibiotic prescriptions for these illnesses are not needed. There have been several nationwide health campaigns to educate people that antibiotics are not necessary for treating the common cold and that inappropriate use can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections, said Dr. Rita Mangione-Smith, lead investigator and pediatrician at Mattel Childrens Hospital at UCLA. We wanted to find out which groups of parents were not getting this message so that educational efforts could be made more effective.

To conduct the study, researchers surveyed 570 Los Angeles-area parents who visited the doctors office because of their childs respiratory illness from October 2000 to June 2001. Thirty-eight physicians were enrolled at 27 sites. Parents completed a pre-visit survey that gathered information on demographics and their childs illness, and included a 15-item expectation inventory to find out how necessary the parent believed it was for the doctor to prescribe antibiotics. Doctors then completed a post-visit survey to determine diagnosis, treatment and whether or not they believed the parent expected antibiotics.

Among the findings:

  • Seventy percent of parents believed that antibiotics were either definitely or probably necessary for their childs illness.
  • Among physicians, only 36 percent reported that they either strongly or somewhat agree

Contact: Amy Waddell
University of California - Los Angeles

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