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Creating consistent routines helps children take medicine properly

Working with children and young people to establish consistent routines for medicine-taking, may help to overcome the barriers preventing adherence. That is according to the findings of newly published research, funded by the NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme.

One in five children in the UK under the age of 16 has a longstanding illness that may require medicines. It has been shown that adherence, those taking their medicines as prescribed, is worse in children than in adults.

The research, led by Professor Rachel Elliott of the University of Nottingham, aimed to create a clearer picture of the reasons for non-adherence, by examining the interactions between patients, parents and practitioners.

A review of international literature revealed 197 studies on adherence to medicines in children. In addition the research team undertook 43 interviews involving parents, children and practitioners, as well as three focus groups with practitioners only.

Although the literature contained key gaps and limitations, the research team’s own findings revealed that adherence seemed to be at its greatest when parents and children worked together. Homes with consistent routines were found to be the most likely to have good medicine taking behaviour.

The evidence synthesis and consensus-building helped to inform the development of a new consultation tool, the Talking About Medicines (TABS) intervention. It aims to encourage children and young people to get more involved in the dialogue concerning their treatment.

A pilot of TABS showed encouraging results with young people rating themselves as being more in control of their own health when the tool was used, while failure to use it was associated with stressful consultations.

“We found evidence of behaviour change when using the intervention, so it is hoped in the future tools such as TABS will contribute to greater adherence among young people,” said Professor Elliott.

She added, “Our findings have also emphasised how important receiving the support of parents and creating consistent routines are to effective medicine management.”

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The NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme is managed by the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC). NETSCC is part of the University of Southampton funded by the NIHR, with specific contributions from the CSO in Scotland and NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

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