Objective: To improve the use and dosage of antibiotics prescribed at Commune Health Stations in Viet Nam, and in so doing find out whether antibiotic dosage can be easily and reliably measured as a drug-use indicator.
Methods: All commune health workers from the 217 commune health stations in Hai Phong Province, Viet Nam, were enlisted over an 18-month study period during 1994-96. The study design was a longitudinal time series, with each new district baseline acting as a rolling control. Each health station was monitored monthly by district supervisors. Two formal evaluations by doctors external to the study were compared with the supervisors' results. Basic medical equipment was provided three times over nine months, conditional on improvements in prescribing practices and adequate supervision of prescribing practices.
Findings: The supervisors' data showed that the percentage of encounters in which a patient was prescribed an antibiotic decreased from over 65% to around 45%. When antibiotics were given, the percentage of patients who received an adequate dose increased from under 30% to 98%. These changes were stable for 17 months after the intervention stopped.
Conclusions: Such initiatives require the active collaboration of health personnel and civic leaders at every level. Conditional equipment donation was shown to be effective. A simple indicator measuring adequacy of antibiotic dose can be an effective tool to improve the use of antibiotics in a sustainable way.