A mass media campaign in England helped improve knowledge about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and attitudes regarding inappropriate antibiotic use, according to a study published last week in Eurosurveillance.
The Keep Antibiotics Working campaign was England's first multi-channel, integrated social marketing and communications campaign promoting prudent antibiotic prescribing for the public and general practitioners (GPs). The messaging aimed to reduce patient expectations for an antibiotic prescription and help GPs feel confident about declining antibiotic prescription requests when they are inappropriate.
To evaluate the impact of the campaign, researchers analyzed responses to interviews given before and after each wave of advertising in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Improved understanding of appropriate antibiotic use
The interviews showed that prompted recognition of the campaign (where the respondent is shown campaign material and asked if they recognize it) was high, increasing from 68% in 2018 to 74% in 2019, and was significantly higher post-2019 in mothers of children ages 0 to 16 years old—a subgroup identified as one of the key targets of the campaign. The level of recognition was higher than found for previous national antibiotic awareness campaigns.
More important, respondents' knowledge and understanding of appropriate antibiotic use increased following the campaign. The percentage of respondents who answered "true" when responding to the statement "Antibiotics will stop working for you if taken for the wrong things" rose from 69.1% pre-2017 to 77.6% post-2019, while those who recognized that taking antibiotics when you don't need them puts you and your family at risk of antibiotic-resistant infections rose from 80.5% to 86.1%. In addition, the proportion of people reporting concern for themselves or for their children about AMR increased by 11.2% and 6.0%, respectively, pre- to post-campaign.
Most GPs agreed that the campaign supported them in saying no to patients asking for inappropriate antibiotics and will make patients less likely to ask for antibiotics.
"Overall, the campaign evaluation showed the key aims of the campaign were met with several significant changes in knowledge, attitudes, concern about AMR, and intentions to alter behaviour which would improve appropriate antibiotic usage and reduce pressure on GPs to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics," the study authors wrote.