Background: High consumption of antibiotics has been identified as an important driver for the increasing antibiotic resistance, considered to be one of the greatest threats to public health globally. Simply informing the public about this consequence is insufficient to induce behavioral change. This study explored beliefs and perceptions among Swedes, with the aim of identifying factors promoting and hindering a judicious approach to antibiotics use. The study focused primarily on the medical use of antibiotics, also considering other aspects connected with antibiotic resistance, such as travelling and food consumption. Methods: Data were collected through focus group discussions at the end of 2016. Twenty-three Swedes were recruited using an area-based approach and purposive sampling, aiming for as heterogeneous groups as possible regarding gender (13 women, 10 men), age (range 20-81, mean 38), and education level. Interview transcripts were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The Health Belief Model was used as a theoretical framework. Results: Antibiotic resistance was identified by participants as a health threat with the potential for terrible consequences. The severity of the problem was perceived more strongly than the actual likelihood of being affected by it. Metaphors such as climate change were abundantly employed to describe antibiotic resistance as a slowly emerging problem. There was a tension between individual (egoistic) and collective (altruistic) reasons for engaging in judicious behavior. The individual effort needed and antibiotics overprescribing were considered major barriers to such behavior. In their discussions, participants stressed the need for empowerment, achieved through good health communication from authorities and family physicians. Conclusions: Knowledge about antibiotic consumption and resistance, as well as values such as altruism and trust in the health care system, has significant influence on both perceptions of individual responsibility and on behavior. This suggests that these factors should be emphasized in health education and health promotion. To instead frame antibiotic resistance as a slowly emerging disaster, risks diminish the public perception of being susceptible to it.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Antibiotic resistance, Health behavior, Health belief model, Qualitative research
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-6047-8, hdl.handle.net/1765/110915
Journal BMC Public Health
Citation
Ancillotti, M. (Mirko), Eriksson, S. (Stefan), Veldwijk, J, Nihlén Fahlquist, J. (Jessica), Andersson, D.I. (Dan I.), & Godskesen, T. (Tove). (2018). Public awareness and individual responsibility needed for judicious use of antibiotics: A qualitative study of public beliefs and perceptions 11 Medical and Health Sciences 1117 Public Health and Health Services. BMC Public Health, 18(1). doi:10.1186/s12889-018-6047-8