The Health Neighborhood, a consumer health partner of Consumer Reports, comprises members from 32 organizations in south central Connecticut, including medical practices, nursing homes, health departments and other nonprofit agencies, to collaborate and develop community education to keep people healthy and independent.
“We’re not an official organization, just a group that meets monthly and takes on important health care projects together,” said Barbara Katz, RN, MSN, Director of Clinical Program Development for VNA Community Healthcare, nonprofit Visiting Nurse Association that leads the coalition. “By working together, we can reach more patients and families.”
Inspired by Choosing Wisely® society recommendations about respiratory symptoms and urinary tract infections, statewide initiatives about antibiotics, and anecdotal conversations about treatment among elderly populations, the Health Neighborhood recently launched a campaign to teach people about appropriate antibiotic use.
“We are on the front lines,” Katz said. “Our agencies are visiting patients in their homes. It made sense to educate both our staff and patients about antibiotics. Sometimes people are not happy if there is not a quick fix to their symptoms, but they might not realize that antibiotics can have bad side effects.”
This regional effort joins the growing list of projects targeting antibiotic overuse. Separately, on the national front, ABIM Foundation recently announced that it will work to reduce the use of antibiotics for viral infections in select health systems by at least 20 percent over nearly three years.
The Health Neighborhood campaign, which coordinates with the Connecticut Choosing Wisely Collaborative (CCWC), focuses on awareness and education. Coalition members planned to disseminate Choosing Wisely materials focused on reducing antibiotic overuse, but realized that the materials had to be accessible to its patient population, which includes low income seniors and other groups with low health literacy.
Consumer Reports worked with the coalition to create a trifold brochure that presents key points in plain language and includes large print text and high-contrast visuals for those with low vision.
The new brochure, along with a “5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Take Antibiotics” poster, and a public service announcement video, both developed by Consumer Reports, were distributed to all 32 organizations in the Health Neighborhood during a May 5 campaign kickoff event. The materials were also handed out at a CCWC conference and are available on VNA’s Consumer Health Choices site.
While Health Neighborhood is a grassroots effort, the organizations involved have the collective potential to reach about 30,000 people. Katz said Health Neighborhood monthly meetings focus on making sure that each organization develops a plan to distribute the information and assigns a staff person to share progress updates about outreach efforts.
“There are a variety of ways organizations are using the Choosing Wisely materials,” Katz said. “VNA Community Healthcare has posters around our building and provides brochures to visiting nurses. Disability groups share the information with counselors who act as advocates for patients. Medical practices are also handing out brochures, and the PSA has aired on several cable stations.”
Informal surveys—one sent out in May and another planned for the fall—will help gauge if fewer patients and family members ask for antibiotics and if they’ve learned more about appropriate antibiotics use.