Evaluation of a national programme to reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections: effects on consumer awareness, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour in Australia

Health Promot Int. 2007 Mar;22(1):53-64. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dal034. Epub 2006 Oct 17.


The over-use of antibiotics, in particular, inappropriate use to treat upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), is a global public health concern. In an attempt to reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics for URTIs, and, in particular, to modify patient misconceptions about the effectiveness of antibiotics for URTIs, Australia's National Prescribing Service Ltd (NPS) has undertaken a comprehensive, multistrategic programme for health professionals and the community. Targeted strategies for the community, via the NPS common colds community campaign, commenced in 2000 and have been repeated annually during the winter months. Community strategies were closely integrated, using the same tagline, key messages and visual images, and were delivered in numerous settings including general practice, community pharmacy, child-care centres and community groups. Strategies included written information via newsletters and brochures, mass media activity using billboards, television, radio and magazines and small grants to promote local community education. The evaluation used multiple methods and data sources to measure process, impact and outcomes. Consistent with intervention messages, the integrated nationwide prescriber and consumer programme is associated with modest but consistent positive changes in consumer awareness, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour to the appropriate use of antibiotics for URTIs. These positive changes among the community are corroborated by a national decline in total antibiotic prescriptions dispensed in the community (from 23.08 million prescriptions in 1998-99 to 21.44 million in 2001-02) and, specifically, by a decline among the nine antibiotics commonly used for URTI such that by 2003 nationally 216,000 fewer prescriptions for URTI are written each year by general practitioners.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Australia
  • Awareness*
  • Common Cold / therapy
  • Drug Utilization
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Pharmacists
  • Physicians, Family
  • Program Evaluation
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents