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Educational materials do not substantially increase parents' knowledge and attitudes about the use of antibiotics

The dramatic rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria has become an important public health concern. Parents' lack of knowledge, their demand for antibiotics, miscommunication between doctors and parents, doctors' concerns about patient satisfaction and time, and diagnostic uncertainty play a role in the inappropriate use of oral antibiotics in children.

Educating parents about appropriate antibiotic use is considered a key element in any educational campaign on the topic. However, an educational video alone will not accomplish the task, according to a study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (National Research Service Award training grant T32 HS00063).

Researchers led by Howard Bauchner, M.D., of Boston University School of Medicine, randomly assigned 206 parents at an urban primary care clinic and a suburban pediatric practice into two groups. Parents in the educational group were asked to view a 20-minute video about the appropriate use of antibiotics over a 2-month period and were given a brochure on the topic. Parents in the control group received neither. When interviewed by telephone 2 months later, parents in the educational group fared no better on knowledge, beliefs, or behavior than those in the control group. For example, they scored 8.04 on the knowledge questionnaire (11 true-false questions) compared with 7.82 for parents in the control group. However, parents in the educational group from the primary care urban clinic were more likely to report that there were problems with children receiving too many antibiotics than control parents (67 vs. 34 percent).

These results suggest only a modest effect of the video and brochure on parent knowledge, beliefs, and self-reported behaviors regarding oral antibiotics. To be effective any campaign promoting the judicious use of oral antibiotics for children must use a multifaceted approach and target both parents and physicians, conclude the researchers.

See "Improving parent knowledge about antibiotics: A video intervention," by Dr. Bauchner, Stavroula Osganian, M.D., Kevin Smith, M.S., and Randi Triant, M.F.A., in the October 2001 Pediatrics 108(4), pp. 845-850.

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