Pink eye, ear infections, runny noses, sore throats and coughs are commonplace in a daycare center, nursery school or kindergarten class. Many parents whose children suffer from these ailments want to help their children feel better quickly and see antibiotics as a miracle drug; but, they don’t always understand that antibiotics aren’t the best solution, and that overuse can be harmful to a child and threaten population health by contributing to antibiotic resistance.
Nine specialty societies have made 14 recommendations on antimicrobial stewardship within the Choosing Wisely® campaign. Antibiotic stewardship has been promoted through clinical guidelines, institutional committees and campaigns such as the CDC’s Get Smart campaign. While there have been decreases in the prescribing of unnecessary antibiotics to children, widespread overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics continue to be significant public health threats.
As a grantee working to advance the Choosing Wisely campaign, HealthInsight Utah is trying a new approach to engage with parents about this important issue by partnering with local early childhood education organizations to educate parents on when a course of antibiotics is – or is not – appropriate for their children.
HealthInsight Utah’s initial efforts focused on discussions with parents during clinical encounters. However, due to the urgency of reaching parents before they visited the doctor’s office, HealthInsight’s Choosing Wisely advisory committee decided that messaging needed to move upstream.
“We decided we needed to educate the parents before their kid is sick and in the office,” said Korey Capozza, Consumer Engagement Director at HealthInsight Utah. “We need to give them time to consider the idea of appropriate antibiotic use.”
While early childhood education centers haven’t traditionally been partners in antimicrobial stewardship, this type of institution is a logical fit as parents are able to receive information from a trusted source and in a location where the information is relevant. The campaign can also help these centers reconsider policies where antibiotics are a condition for a child to be readmitted after a sickness.
Utah Association for the Education of Young Children (UAEYC), an organization that represents early childhood centers in the state, recognized the importance of this work and joined HealthInsight Utah’s education campaign. UAEYC disseminated information on antibiotic use through an article in their newsletter and distributed patient-friendly wallet cards and brochures to early childhood learning centers throughout the state.
“We tried to create materials that are appealing to a parent who is busy and working, such as with a picture of a cute kid with a simple message in a convenient location. The idea is to help them imagine that their kid could be the next one to get sick. We hope the materials will push parents to seek more information,” said Capozza.
UAEYC has facilitated new potential partnerships with other organizations including the Governor’s Early Childhood Work Group and the state Head Start agency. While it is too early in this approach to see what effect it will have on community health education, Cappozza said, “We’ve found that early childhood groups are very amenable to partnering around this important issue. The collaborations have been fruitful in reaching a population that really cares.”