‘You never know when you will need an antibiotic’: A qualitative study of structural barriers and cultural assumptions in antibiotic misuse among immigrants in the United States

Sara Imanpour, Darcy Jones McMaughan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The use of nonprescribed antibiotics increases the risk of antibiotic resistance, which is a primary public health concern of the 21st century. This study explores structural and cultural determinants of antibiotic misuse among immigrants living in the United States who arrived from home countries with easier access to antibiotics. Methods: Adopting a qualitative approach, we interviewed 34 immigrants living in the United States and who had traveled back to their home countries within 1 year of the interview. We followed the steps of constructive grounded theory to analyze the data. Results: We found two primary influences of immigrants’ use of nonprescribed antibiotics. The first was structural barriers to health care access in the host country, including insurance coverage, cost of an emergency department visit, cost of missing a paid day of work, complexity of the healthcare system, and communication issues with health care providers. The second was participants’ cultural assumptions, including their experiences of antibiotics use, beliefs about antibiotics, a habit of self-medication, and uncertainty about future medical needs. Conclusions: This study informs policymakers concerned with combating antibiotic resistance. Promoting antibiotic stewardship among immigrants from countries with lax antibiotic-prescribing practices and improving access to appropriate channels for preventative and same-day care may reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Health Services Research and Policy
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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