A Community Intervention to Decrease Antibiotics Used for Self-Medication Among Latino Adults

Self-medication with antibiotics obtained without a prescription (WORx) has substantial prevalence in Latino communities. An intervention to decrease misuse of antibiotics showed that focusing on education only may not be sufficient to address the problem.

Antibiotic resistance is a global problem with a strong impact on morbidity and mortality. Excessive use of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance. Most efforts to control use of antibiotics have focused on limiting prescriptions, a strategy which does not address the problem of self-medication. This study involved a 9-month, culturally sensitive, community-based intervention including multiple media sources (pamphlets, radio, TV, newspapers). It also evaluated the use of antibiotics WORx in the U.S. by surveying Latino adults in both the intervention (n=250) and control (n=250) communities.

Key Findings:

  • A substantial proportion of Latino adults in both the intervention (31%) and control (20%) communities had obtained antibiotics WORx in the United States.
  • Exposure to an educational message was not a significant predictor of having acquired antibiotics WORx in the U.S. in the last 12 months.
  • The primary predictor of respondents’ having bought antibiotics WORx in the U.S. was whether they had bought antibiotics WORx outside the US.

These results suggest that usual forms of health education may not be sufficient to overcome the influence of past behavior. Interventions aimed at preventing self-medication should include both public education and enforcing regulations regarding sale of antibiotics. Limitations to this study include the exclusive focus on Latinos and the limited duration of the intervention.