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Health policy focuses on reducing antibiotic prescribing that in order to succeed requires the public to hold similar attitudes towards judicious use. Social network influences on health behaviour and attitudes are well established and yet these influences are not sufficiently acknowledged in the UK's antibiotic stewardship programmes. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate individuals' attitudes and behaviours towards antibiotics and also identify the social network influences on these in the process of help seeking for self-limiting illnesses. From a social network approach the methods used were a personal community mapping exercise which was carried out ahead of a semi-structured interview. A purposive sample was drawn from across the Wessex region and participants were recruited via GP practices and pharmacists. In total 14 adults, and 10 parents of children, who had received a prescription for antibiotics for a self-limiting illness within the 3 months preceding the interview were recruited and interviewed. Three network types were identified; diverse, family and friend and restricted. The type of network an individual has appears to have an influence on antibiotic attitudes and behaviours. Most notably, the more diverse a network the more likely the individual will delay in help seeking from healthcare professionals as they draw upon self-care strategies advised by network members. The role of the GP varies according to network type too. Individuals' with diverse networks draw upon GP network members to provide clarity and certainty following a period of self-care. People with restricted networks are more reliant upon the GP, seek help quicker and also more likely to prioritise the GPs advice over other sources of information. The understanding a social network approach brings to help seeking behaviour for antibiotics could help practitioners modify their consultation approach to mitigate some uncertainties and perceptions around prescribing behaviour.


J Ellis, I Vassilev, A Kennedy, M Moore, A Rogers. Help seeking for antibiotics; is the influence of a personal social network relevant? BMC family practice. 2019 May 14;20(1):63

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PMID: 31088394

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