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Rural Health Information Hub

Education Programs and Mass Media Campaigns for Poisoning Prevention

Poisoning prevention education is essential to decreasing the incidence and severity of poisonings in rural communities. Common poisoning sources include medications, cleaning products, and other chemicals found in households, such as antifreeze. Other poisoning incidents may involve e-cigarette and liquid nicotine, cannabinoids/CBD, hand sanitizer, laundry pods, and button or coin lithium batteries. Among children, accidental poisonings usually occur because of ingestion of easily accessible medications and other poisonous household products.

Education programs can encourage parents and caregivers to:

  • Keep medicine and other toxic household products out of reach and sight of children by using locks, safety latches, or safe storage containers
  • Use the appropriate dosage of medication as directed by the manufacturer and/or a healthcare provider
  • Post the phone number and website of Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) in a visible location to refer to in case of an accidental poisoning

Rural providers and organizations can use the following evidence-based poisoning prevention education programs and materials to educate community members:

  • Over-the-Counter Medicine Safety – a multi-media education program for grades 5-8 that focuses on the safe storage and disposal of over-the-counter medications. Materials for teachers, school nurses, and families are provided.
  • Safe Kids Worldwide Medication Safety Resources – a suite of materials that include infographics, research reports, tip sheets, checklists, and other products that can be easily distributed to families and caregivers.
  • Up and Away and Out of Sight – a safe medication storage education program developed by multiple federal agencies, national associations, and safety-focused organizations.

Poison centers are a key source of information and resources for rural communities. Poison centers are locally operated and funded in part by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The centers are reachable for advice 24 hours a day at 1‑800‑222‑1222 in the case of poisoning emergencies. The Poison Control Center Toolkits offer multiple resources that can be printed and distributed in local communities, including a business card that community members can keep in their wallets.

Poison centers also play a key role in poisoning prevention awareness. For example, the Oregon Poison Center offers free online poison prevention training to community partners. This train-the-trainer model allows rural partners to educate community members at widely attended events in convenient locations, such as health fairs or schools. Rural organizations can contact their local poison control center to identify available resources and training opportunities.

America's Poison Centers, which represents the 55 poison control centers across the United States, helps promote National Poison Prevention Week in March each year. They offer many shareable resources to help spread awareness of Poison Control Centers, including social media marketing materials and activities for children, teens, and adults. HRSA encourages public health agencies planning events for National Poison Prevention Week to reach out to their local poison control center to coordinate efforts.

Examples of Education Programs for Poisoning Prevention

  • The Nebraska Regional Poison Center provides poison prevention programming for Nebraska, Idaho, Wyoming, American Samoa, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The center staff include experts who can provide guidance 24 hours a day, as well as educational resources for the community. Residents and organizations can request poison prevention awareness materials developed by the center online.
  • Chautauqua Safety Village provides experiential learning opportunities for children in rural western New York. Children visit the Village to receive interactive and engaging safety lessons on a range of topics, including poisoning prevention.

Implementation Considerations

A meta-analysis of efforts promoting poison prevention among children found that interventions that combined multiple elements were more effective at preventing poisoning than education alone. To maximize the impact of poisoning prevention programs, rural communities should also offer supports to parents and caretakers, such as low cost or free equipment and home safety inspections and equipment fittings. Examples of equipment include locks for cabinets and windows.

Program Clearinghouse Examples

Resources to Learn More

Keeping Kids Safe Around Medicine: Insights and Implications
Describes trends for emergency department visits related to accidental unsupervised ingestions (AUIs) of medicine, and for single substance medicine exposure among children under age 6. Presents findings from research supporting educational, advocacy, and awareness efforts. Offers recommendations for industry, researchers, educators, and government to further reduce AUIs of medicine in children.
Organization: Safe Kids Worldwide
Date: 3/2020

Poison Center and Public Health Collaborations Community of Practice
Supports collaboration and open communication between federal, state, and local public health agencies and poison control centers by strengthening knowledge on public health and toxicology, utilizing poison center data for public health surveillance, and developing best practices for public health and poison control professionals.
Organization(s): National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention