Objective. To determine the effectiveness of educational materials in improving the attitudes of parents of young children about the judicious use of antibiotics.

Methods. We conducted a randomized controlled trial by recruiting parents of children who were younger than 24 months and being seen for any reason in primary care pediatric offices. At the time of enrollment, study parents indicated their level of agreement with 16 statements, including 9 statements about antibiotic usage and 7 about injury prevention. After being randomized, parents received either a pamphlet and a videotape promoting the judicious use of antibiotics (intervention group) or brochures about effective injury prevention (control group). Six weeks after enrollment, each group received another copy of the pamphlet or brochures and a follow-up questionnaire with the identical 16 statements. Responses on both questionnaires were transformed to an ordinal scale for analysis. Scores on the follow-up questionnaire for each statement about antibiotic use and injury prevention in the 2 groups were compared using linear regression, after controlling for the score obtained for the statement at enrollment.

Results. We enrolled a total of 499 eligible parents in the study; 358 (72%) completed the follow-up questionnaires. At study entry, there were no significant differences between parents in the intervention and control groups regarding attitudes for 15 of the 16 statements assessed. However, 6 weeks after receiving the antibiotic educational materials, parents in the intervention group had significantly different attitude scores for 5 of the 9 statements about the antibiotic use. In each case, the scores reflected attitudes that would promote the judicious use of antibiotics. We found significant attitudinal change for statements about the use of antibiotics for specific conditions in children; there were no differences between the 2 groups for more general or theoretical statements about antibiotic use.

Conclusions. A simple educational effort was successful in modifying parental attitudes about the judicious use of antibiotics. Information about specific childhood conditions may be more effective in changing attitudes than more general information about antibiotic usage.

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